Gichuru and Okemo lose Sh520 million stashed in Jersey Island

Court orders seizure of firm's Sh520 million stashed in offshore account

Friday February 26 2016

Former Nambale MP Chris Okemo (right) and former Kenya Power boss James Gichuru during a mention of an extradition case against them at a Nairobi court on February 28, 2012. Mr Okemo has also been named as a beneficiary of bribes paid to Mr Gichuru and is also wanted in Jersey to face money laundering and fraud charges. PHOTO | BILLY MUTAI | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Former Nambale MP Chris Okemo (right) and former Kenya Power boss James Gichuru during the mention of an extradition case against them in a Nairobi court on February 28, 2012. Mr Okemo has also been named as a beneficiary of bribes paid to Mr Gichuru and is also wanted in Jersey to face money laundering and fraud charges. PHOTO | BILLY MUTAI | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By AGGREY MUTAMBO
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Former Kenya Power boss Samuel Gichuru and former Nambale MP Chris Okemo have lost the money they stashed on Jersey Island after authorities there confiscated it.

Deciding on a case launched two weeks ago by the island’s attorney-general, the Royal Court of Jersey ordered the seizure of about Sh520 million in the offshore account belonging to Windward Trading Ltd after the company pleaded guilty to four counts of money laundering.

The company, according to court records, admitted to laundering proceeds of crime between July 29, 1999 and October 19, 2001.

Windward was created in the 1980s by Mr Gichuru to receive kickbacks for the award of tenders to foreign firms during his tenure at Kenya Power. The funds were usually disguised as consultancy fees or commissions charged to the companies.

FRAUD CHARGES

Mr Okemo has also been named as a beneficiary of bribes, according to court papers, and is also wanted in Jersey on money laundering and fraud charges.

Jersey Attorney-General Robert MacRae said the decision by the court will not dampen his country’s pursuit to extradite the two. He said he would consult Kenyan authorities on how to return the money.

“This is a very important case demonstrating Jersey’s commitment to combating money-laundering and international corruption,” he said in a statement Thursday night.

Indicted in July 2011 by the Jersey authorities, the two have been fighting legal battles in Kenya to stop their extradition.

The High Court in November ordered that they be extradited. They appealed the decision and a temporary order was issued last month for them to stay until the matter is decided.

Mr Gichuru and Mr Okemo face 53 counts linked to the “commissions”.

Details of the money were exposed when Mr Gichuru’s wife filed court papers during proceedings for divorce. The wife claimed an estimated Sh1 billion was stashed abroad.

Details from the court showed how they milked companies bidding to get contracts with Kenya Power. On Wednesday, the company pleaded guilty to four counts of money laundering and the Court of Jersey imposed a confiscation order of £281,897.40 and $540,330.69 equivalent to the total assets of the company.

ADMITTED TO CRIME

Windward, according to court records, admitted to laundering proceeds of crime between July 29 1999 and October 19, 2001. Those activities took place in Kenya, where Mr Gichuru was still serving as Kenya Power's boss.

This scheme involved companies from different countries, and an investigation Jersey launched into the matter meant it had to seek legal assistance from as many as 12 countries around the world.

The companies included Wärtsilä, based in Finland, Knight Piésold, from South Africa, British engineering company Mott Macdonald and Capitan (Europe). They all paid Mr Gichuru to get favours for contracts through accounts Windward held at Jersey’s HSBC Bank Plc and Royal Bank of Scotland International.

Jersey is a British Crown dependency among the Channel Islands with an area almost the size of Nairobi city but with about 100,000 people. But the determination with which it has pursued the case shames Kenyan authorities, even though it is also meant to clean up the island’s image as a safe haven for dubious money dealings.

Only this year, London’s Southwark Crown Court seized the assets of Smith & Ouzman Ltd and ordered the British printer to pay a total of Sh351 million in fines and penalties for paying out bribes, codenamed "chicken", to the then Interim Independent Electoral Commission and the Kenya National Examinations Council.

Jersey’s laws allow the authorities to seize assets gained from criminal activities such as money laundering, drug trafficking and bribery.

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