A Nairobi law firm that has been accused of helping controversial businessman Ben Gethi to launder proceeds of a Sh791 million theft has been allowed access to its cash at an I&M Bank account.
I&M Bank has unfrozen the account held by Ogola & Mujera Advocates in its 2nd Ngong Avenue Branch after the law firm sued it for unlawfully blocking the accounts.
The bank agreed to have the account unfrozen as the suit progresses, but the law firm has been barred from transferring a disputed Sh26.9 million pending determination of the case.
Justice Fred Ochieng has adopted the consent as a court order.
Ogola & Mujera has sued I&M for freezing its accounts, arguing that there was no court order compelling it to do so at the time Patrick Ogola, a partner at the law firm, instructed it to transfer Sh27 million to Hong Kong for a clothes purchase deal.
“It is hereby ordered by consent that account number 1179851210 in I&M Bank which had been frozen be and is hereby operationalised forthwith. In view of the fact that in the account the suspected amount is $264,000 (Sh26.9 million), the same shall be preserved,” the court order reads.
I&M also reported the failed transaction to the Financial Reporting Centre (FRC), terming it suspicious.
Mr Ogola says I&M only reported the transaction after he refused to convert the $264,000 at its Parklands branch following a fallout over exchange rates.
But the lender says a gazette notice linking the law firm to the NYS scandal gave it reason to believe that the transaction could be an attempt to launder funds from the Sh791 million theft.
The Assets Recovery Authority (ARA) wants to join the case, arguing that the amount frozen by I&M could be from the sale of a luxury Range Rover it wants to seize from Mr Ogola.
The ARA holds that Mr Ogola owns the Range Rover, but the lawyer insists that he is only in the process of buying it from John Kago, an associate of Mr Gethi, who is also a suspect in the NYS scam.
Mr Gethi is a prime suspect in the NYS scam and is believed to have used his associates and lawyers, including Mr Ogola, to launder money stolen from the NYS.
The ARA holds that Mr Ogola could have sold it to stop it from seizing the vehicle which is among other assets worth Sh585 million and linked to Mr Gethi that the State agency wants to recover.