The Government has suffered a major blow after the High court dismissed an attempt to seize Ksh100 million belonging to a Nigerian man on suspicion of money laundering.
The man identified as Mauzu Bala was arrested by detectives with the money in 880,000 US dollars, 60,000 euros and 63,000 Nigerian naira stacked in his handbag at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) while heading to Dubai.
While dismissing the move by the state through the Assets Recovery Agency (ARA) to have the funds forfeited, Justice Esther Maina noted that the Nigerian national had proved beyond reasonable doubt that the the cash belongs to him.
"ARA has not proved there was any unlawful conduct in the possession of the money by the respondent(Mauzu Bala). l, therefore, dismiss the application and order the frozen funds to be released back to the respondent," Justice Maina ruled.
In her Judgement, Justice Maina noted that Bala clearly made a declaration and proved to the court that the millions of shilling found in his possession during his arrest at JKIA was his.
The decision by the court comes after ARA moved to court seeking to have the monies forfeited to the state on grounds Bala's failure to disclose that he was carrying such a huge amount of money and produce documents supporting the legitimacy of the cash raised suspicion of money laundering.
Section 12 (1) of the Proceeds of Crime and Anti-Money Laundering Act requires a person to declare any amount above $10,000 (approximately over Ksh1 million).
The Act gives the agency powers to obtain a court order seizing money within five days, where there is reasonable grounds to believe that it is illicit money.
But the Nigerian vehemently opposed the application and urged the court to order for the release of his money, so that he could proceed with his journey to Dubai.
He claimed that the state was only interested in his money and thereafter, deport him to his home country.
Bala also informed the court that he has not been charged with any offence and the money should therefore be released.
“All the respondent is concerned with is to confiscate my hard-earned money and have me deported,”Bala said in an affidavit filed in court.
Nigerian man arrested on suspicion for money laundering
The Nigerian was arrested and detained while on his way to Dubai on December 4, 2020. At the time of arrest he was carrying the money in his handbag.
He had arrived through Kenya Airways flight KQ535 from Lagos and was waiting for connecting flight KQ310, to Dubai.
Following his arrest, the state rushed to court and obtained orders that the funds are handed to the ARA for preservation but the Nigerian man said he declared the money in Lagos before boarding the flight to Nairobi.
“At the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, I declared the currency and was cleared by customs for travel. I checked in the consignment and as is the usual norm in international travels, my next declaration point would have been Dubai International Airport,” he stated
Bala said he was surprised that Kenya Airways cleared him back in Lagos with “undeclared currency” only to pounce on him in Nairobi.
“The intention at the time could have been only to deprive me of my money,” he said.
He further accused the state officials of confiscating all his documents including the customs clearance forms from Lagos, his passport, currency declaration acknowledgement from Dubai, as well as a declaration letter from Shah Jewellery Trading LLC. Bala tabled in court attached a letter from Ahammed Shuhaib, a partner of Shah Jewellery, who claimed to own the money and he was just an agent.