Profiles

Lincoln Njeru: Untamed greed dims insurance executive’s rising star

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Mr Lincoln Kivuti Njeru at Milimani Law courts on September 21 during his sentencing for the Sh62m theft. PHOTO | DENNIS ONSONGO | NMG

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Summary

  • The father of three blamed his employer for pursuing criminal and civil cases against him in a bid to recover the money.
  • To get back his footing, the accountant took a loan from Equity Bank in 2008 to engage in commercial farming but there returns were very poor, sinking him into more debts.
  • He developed stomach ulcers and high blood pressure, he said.

Growing up in Kamaregwa village in Embu County Lincoln Kivuti Njeru’s star looked bright, at least going by an exemplary academic performance right from his childhood days in the early 1970s when being well read would earn one some of the best job opportunities unlike today.

Njeru’s academic prowess showed early when he sat the preparatory Certificate of Primary Education (CPE) exams at Kiangima Primary School in 1976, bagging 32 out of the possible 36 points, earning him an admission to Kangaru High School where he again shone in the Kenya Certificate Examination (KCE), attaining a high score of Division 1 of 19 points.

He would then proceed to the University of Nairobi where he earned Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics — a feat that opened doors to a memorable career, starting off as a trainee at global consultancy firm, KPMG Pitmarwick in 1987 and later joining the Kenya National Assurance in the same capacity before rising through the rank of executive assistant.

Njeru’s highest career point came in 2006 when he held the rank of Assistant General Manager at the Insurance Company of East Africa (ICEA). But as fate would have it, the stint at ICEA came with bad decisions that the 58-year-old will regret for the rest of his life.

Perhaps swayed by the fancies of life on the fast lane, Njeru who now faces three years in jail, dipped his hands into his employers’ cookie jar and illegally fished out Sh62.7million when he served as the investment manager.

Evidence presented in court showed that he received the money through collapsed Nyaga stockbrokers for sale of ICEA share investments.

But instead of wiring the funds to the insurance firm’s accounts, he deposited it to his personal accounts. He also invested some at the Nairobi Securities Exchange, but claimed that he would have refunded the money only that the share value at the Nairobi bourse got eroded.

Mr Njeru pleaded with Nairobi Chief Magistrate Francis Andayi that he was sick and had mended his ways. But the magistrate would hear none of it and dismissed his request to be handed a non-custodial sentence.

The court heard that he withdrew the money from HFCK, Barclays Bank (now Absa) and Nyaga Stockbrokers but the amounts ended up in his accounts. Evidence showed that the money was deposited into the accounts of ICEA at the HFCK, then transferred to Barclays and later to the brokerage firm allegedly for investment in stocks.

The father of three blamed his employer for pursuing criminal and civil cases against him in a bid to recover the money. To get back his footing, the accountant took a loan from Equity Bank in 2008 to engage in commercial farming but there returns were very poor, sinking him into more debts.

He developed stomach ulcers and high blood pressure, he said. “I have been on medication,” he said blaming the employer for the multiple suits.

Mr Njeru was charged with three counts, among them stealing Sh15.6 million between January 17, 2003 and September 2, 2003 from ICEA when he was employed as an assistant general manager.

Evidence showed that some Sh10 million was recovered from him and a further Sh7 million was found in his account. He said he could have refunded the money if he were financially stable.

Unexplained millions

The church elder also blamed some people he did not name, for taking advantage of him to diverge the funds.

The court found that the money deposited in the accounts of ICEA were withdrawn and deposited into his personal account.

"From the totality of evidence presented by the prosecution the losses experienced by ICEA were correctly linked to the accused person and not as investment losses as he purported," the magistrate stated in his sentence.

The magistrate said the accused could not explain the source of the millions of shillings he held in his bank accounts.

Mr Andayi also rejected the probation report where Mr Njeru admitted the theft, offered to seek forgiveness from the ICEA Insurance executive team and asked for a non-custodial sentence on the grounds of ill-health.

The pleas by the 58-year-old to be pardoned fell on deaf years. He blamed the bad choices he made on his young and ambitious life. He even admitted that he was greedy and should not have touched the money channelled to him by virtue of his employment.