The High Court has rejected an application by former PS Lillian Omollo for a visit to her farm in Uyoma, Siaya County, to establish whether she cultivates crops for commercial purposes.
Justice Mumbi Ngugi dismissed the case, saying, the application by the former Youth PS was only meant to delay the Assets Recovery Agency bid to have Ms Omollo forfeit some Sh35 million, held in several accounts.
“In my view, a site visit to a farm to establish whether or not such a farm can be the source of large sums of money deposited in bank accounts kilometres away would really be to chase after a mirage,” the judge said.
She added that there was no evidence that Ms Omollo owns the said farm in Rarieda and there was no connection between the farm and the funds.
“The court might see the ‘green houses with the high level hydroponic farm system’, but thus begs the question: how do the farm and the systems in the farm and the green houses translate into the funds held in the bank accounts in contention? the judge posed.
Through lawyer Stephen Ligunya, Ms Omollo said the visit was critical because it would have helped the court make a just conclusion. Mr Ligunya maintained that part of the money frozen by the court and which is subject to forfeiture to the government, was proceeds from the farm.
The former PS, who has been charged with the loss of millions at National Youth Service (NYS) claimed she had greenhouses where she farms tomatoes, cucumbers, and watermelons among other crops.
“The visit will give the court an opportunity to know the legitimate source of her income. The visit has an objective opinion. That is all we are asking,” the lawyer said.
Assets Recovery Agency (ARA) said the land was still bare, with no ongoing farming. Through lawyer Mohammed Adow, ARA said Ms Omollo was given a chance to explain the source of the money, but her answers were not satisfactory. ARA concluded they were proceeds of crime.
Two investigators from ARA said they visited the farm and only found shrubs. Mr Isaac Nakitare said the farming business is meant to conceal the source of the funds and a “classical scheme of money laundering.”
The investigator said there were a few immature tomatoes, in a small-sized greenhouse, which was not commercial level.
“There is no shred of evidence to show linkages between the funds in issue and the alleged farm, which our investigations established does not exist,” he said.
Ms Omollo has fought off claims that the frozen accounts held money suspected to be proceeds of crime and stated that there is no nexus between the money and the National Youth Service, to warrant the forfeiture.
"I deny the allegations that no reasonable explanation was given showing legitimate source of funds, principally because on November 19, 2018 I duly gave and delivered to the applicant my documents and evidence showing legitimate sources of funds held in the subject bank accounts", she said.
The agency filed the application seeking the forfeiture of about Sh35 million, held in several accounts, it suspects are proceeds of crime.
The accounts frozen include six accounts at Equity Bank registered in the names of Lilian Muthoni Mbogo which had USD 67,331.9, an account in the name of LIDI Estates Ltd which had US D 28,981, another account in the same bank and the same name and which had Sh2,297,495 and another with US D 8,979.83.
Documents filed in court state that the amounts were deposited between January 2016 and March 2018. Ms Omollo was appointed PS for Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs on December 18, 2015.