Kenya flagged more than Sh15 billion in just three years before the August election, which were later frozen by the High Court over suspicion of being proceeds of crime and money laundering.
The firms whose billions were frozen were mainly start-ups incorporated elsewhere with links in Kenya and Nigerians and had wired millions of shillings from West Africa, Asia and Middle East.
The Assets Recovery Agency (ARA) claimed that shell companies were also incorporated in Kenya for purposes of taking advantage of the liberal financial system to launder funds from foreign jurisdictions.
The firms whose billions of shillings were frozen included Flutterwave Ltd, Elivalat Fintech Ltd, Hupesi Solutions, Boxtrip Travels and Tours, Bagtrip Travels Ltd, KiwiPay, KoraPay Technologies and Cruz Ride Auto Ltd.
The agency then followed the freeze with applications to forfeit the billions to the government as the owners of the companies fought the allegations.
Things took a different turn after the August 9 polls as the agency made applications withdrawing petitions seeking seizure of the funds.
The first companies to get back their money were three Nigerian companies, namely Avalon Offshore Logistics Limited, OIT Africa Limited and RemX Capital Limited, which were at the centre of an international money laundering syndicate and were at risk of losing Sh5.7 billion to the State as proceeds of crime.
Kandon Technologies Ltd also got back its Sh15 million, which had been frozen over allegations of fraud.
The Nigerian firms explained that the billions of shillings belonged to Nigerians and Kenyans that had been remitted to their loved ones.
The largest amount belonged to OIT Africa Ltd with Sh4.8 billion in two bank accounts at Equity and one in UBA. Avalon Offshore Logistics had Sh43.5 million in two Equity accounts, while RemX Capital had Sh765 million banked in one account at UBA.
KiwiPay PTE, which is registered in Singapore, got back its Sh2.3 billion held in the three accounts at Ecobank, after ARA said investigations revealed the money was genuine.
KiwiPay says it offers digital payment services such as QR Code solutions for retail shops, hotels and restaurants. It enables foreign e-wallet solutions such as Alipay, SamsungPay, ApplePay, WeChatPay and more.
Gregory Schmidt, a Frenchman, explained shareholders of KiwiPay Kenya Ltd as at June 8, 2020 were KiwiPay PTE (the mother company) 51 percent, Ms Monthinda Rashi 20 percent, while four Kenyans each held 7.5 percent shares.
“It is hereby ordered, that the preservation orders issued in ASEC Misc E014 of 2022 are discharged accordingly,” Justice Esther Maina said in the ruling in relation to OIT Africa, Avalon Offshore Logistics and RemX Capital.
Another Nigerian fintech company, Korapay Technologies Limited, which had been linked to online fraud also got back its Sh30 million.
Kora welcomed the decision and said it always maintained its innocence. “We’d like to commend both agencies (ARA and DCI) for their professionalism and thoroughness in seeing this investigation to the conclusive end,” Gideon Orovwiroro, Kora’s chief operations officer, said after the money was released.
He said the company was planning to build “the most robust” payment product on the African continent.
And recently, a Bahraini whose $977,075 (about Sh120 million) was seized by a State agency in January over suspicion of money laundering got back the millions after the High Court ruled he had proved the money was genuine.
Justice Esther Maina said Khalid Jameel Saeed proved the money, which was seized from him on January 28, at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA), after he failed to declare the cash to the customs officials, was not tainted.
The court heard that the foreigner arrived in Kenya on January 13 but failed to declare any cash upon entry.
The Bahraini left the county on Egypt Air flight number MS0841 at 7.30am on January 28, when customs officials noticed he was carrying bulk cash.
The agency said the foreigner allegedly failed to give a reasonable explanation why he was in possession of the cash.
Section 12(1) read together with the 2nd Schedule of the Proceeds of Crime and Anti-Money Laundering Act requires a person carrying more than $10,000 in or out of Kenya, to declare the money to customs officials.