Nigerian with Sh100 million cash beats Kenya in court war

 Lady Justice Esther Maina during a past court session. PHOTO | ONDARI OGEGA | NMG

The Assets Recovery Agency (ARA) has failed in its bid to seize over Sh100 million stashed in a bag of a Nigerian businessman at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport while heading to Dubai in December 2020.

The High Court in Milimani Nairobi found that the ARA failed to prove that the money recovered from Mr Mauzu Bala was proceeds of crime.

Mr Bala was found in the possession of the money –US dollars 880,000 Euros 60,000 and 63,000 Nigerian naira- stacked in his suitcase at the JKIA on his way from Lagos Nigeria to Dubai.

ARA claimed that Mr Bala was unable to satisfactorily explain the source and that he did not provide proof of declaration of being in possession of cash from his point of origin to support the source

It added that he failed to explain the purpose or movement of the cash and why he could not use the financial systems and institutions.

Upon the confiscation, ARA filed a forfeiture suit in court seeking to have the money forfeited to the State as it claimed the foreigner was part of a money laundering. It said Mr Bala’s failure to disclose at the custom that he was carrying such a huge amount of money and produce documents supporting the legitimacy of the cash raised suspicion of money laundering.

Section 12 (1) of the Proceeds of Crime and Anti-Money Laundering Act requires a person to declare any amount above $10,000 (approximately over Sh1 million).

Pending the determination, the ARA obtained temporary court orders of preservation and seizure of funds.

But on Thursday, Justice Esther Maina dismissed the attempt by the ARA and said that the Nigerian national had proved beyond reasonable doubt the legitimacy of the cash.

"ARA has not proved there was any unlawful conduct in the possession of the money by Mr Bala. I, therefore, dismiss the application and order the frozen funds to be released back to Mr Bala," Justice Maina said.

The judge said Mr Bala clearly made a declaration and proved to the court that the millions of shillings were his.

Mr Bala said he was a passenger in transit to Dubai from Lagos Nigeria and declared the currency and was cleared by the customs to travel at Murtala Muhammed International Airport, with his next point of declaration being Dubai International Airport.

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