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Queries as Treasury takes over billionaires’ unclaimed assets


From left, Matu Wamae, Maina Wanjigi, Simeon Nyachae and Kalonzo Musyoka. PHOTOS | FILE | NMG

Billionaire businessmen, former powerful government officials and prominent politicians are in the long list of individuals whose assets have been surrendered to the Treasury, raising the question whether the entities submitting the records are complying with the law that requires them to look for the owners.

Most of the assets, now in the custody of the Unclaimed Financial Assets Authority (UFAA), have been surrendered by public listed firms, insurance companies, banks, pension schemes, legal firms, telecoms operators and saccos among others.

By September 30 the idle assets fund had ballooned to Sh25.9 billion.

The authority said many Kenyans remained disinterested in pursuing funds legally belonging to them or their families.

“We are constantly holding public awareness campaigns to encourage apparent owners/beneficiaries to file claims,” UFAA chief executive Kellen Kariuki said in an interview.

A Business Daily review of the authority’s public database found a long list of prominent Kenyans whose funds have helped swell the fund.

READ: Kenyans reluctant to go for Sh8.73bn unclaimed assets

Politicians' assets

Top among them is Nasa co-principal and former vice-president Kalonzo Musyoka whose fortune was picked from Standard Chartered Bank, KCB and Co-operative Bank.

Former Cabinet minister Maina Wanjigi is listed as having not collected assets of unknown value from Barclays Bank #ticker:BBK.

Mr Wanjigi, the father of controversial billionaire businessman Jimmy Wanjigi and a former Kamukunji MP, was a powerful minister in the Moi regime.

Also in the list is former Cabinet minister Simeon Nyachae whose assets have been forwarded to the UFAA by SBG Securities, Stanbic Bank’s #ticker:CFC brokerage firm, and KCB #ticker:KCB.

The former minister controls a vast business empire with interests in manufacturing, transport, banking and large-scale farming.

Successors of former Ukambani kingpin, the late Mulu Mutisya, are yet to claim assets he left in the custody of KCB, 13 years after he died.

Njenga Karume, a former Kiambu politician and billionaire businessman, also features prominently in the UFAA’s records.

Mr Karume died in February 2012, leaving behind a multi-billion shilling estate that has been at the centre of a succession battle. StanChart, Safaricom #ticker:SCOM and KCB relinquished his assets to the UFAA.

Doris Nyambura, Esther Mwikali and Terry Wanjiku, the three widows of flamboyant politician JM Kariuki, are also in the list having failed to collect their late husband’s assets at Unga Group #ticker:UNGA.

Mr Kariuki, who was murdered 42 years ago, had invested extensively in huge tracts of land, real estate, shares in various companies, hotels, large-scale farming and beer distribution, among others.Successors of former first lady Lucy Kibaki are also yet to claim assets from Co-op Bank #ticker:COOP.

Also in the list are the late James Gachuhi (one of the TransCentury #ticker:TCL founders), the late William Odongo Omamo (a former Cabinet minister and father of Defence minister Raychelle Omamo) and the late William Gatuhi Murathe (a renowned businessman from Gatanga, Murang’a).

Matu Wamae, the New KCC chairman, who is also on the list, said the custodians of his East African Breweries Limited (EABL) #ticker:EABL and StanChart #ticker:SCBK dividends did not notify him before surrendering them to the UFAA.

“I was not aware that some of my assets had been surrendered to the UFAA. Nobody notified me. That is the least I expected,” Mr Wamae, himself a billionaire businessman, told the Business Daily in an interview.

John Kibunga Kimani, whose portfolio at the Nairobi bourse stands at over Sh3 billion, expressed similar sentiments, saying nobody alerted him that he had unclaimed assets at Centum Investments #ticker:ICDC and Unga Group.

The list of assets classified as unclaimed includes bank accounts that have been dormant for more than five years, bankers cheques not cashed for two years and contents in safe deposit boxes unclaimed for more than two years.

READ: Ruto removed from list of unclaimed asset owners

Insurance policies

Other assets that qualify for seizure are matured life insurance policies unclaimed for more than two years and shares whose dividends have not been collected for more than three years.

However, the entity holding the assets must have made a deliberate effort to find the rightful owners but failed after which it is permitted to forward them to the UFAA.

“The primary role of reunification rests on the holder. However, a lot of efforts are now geared towards ensuring owners update their records so that their assets do not become unclaimed in the first place,” said Ms Kariuki.

The UFAA said it would also relentlessly pursue firms and individuals withholding unclaimed funds, adding that firms that failed to meet the October 31 deadline will be denied licence to operate come 2018.

The agency had also signed several MoUs with regulatory agencies making it mandatory for private firms seeking renewal of their operating licences for 2018 to get clearance from it before processing of renewal applications.

Any chief executive and company owner who fails to heed the deadline risks being jailed and paying hefty fines, the UFAA said.

READ: Kibakis, Obamas claim idle assets held at Treasury