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High Court clears South Sudanese Cabinet Minister of money laundering allegations

By , K24 Digital
On Tue, 21 Sep, 2021 19:55 | 2 mins read
South Sudanese Minister for Cabinet Affairs Martin Lomuro PHOTO/COURTESY

The Kenyan Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes Court (High Court) has cleared South Sudan Minister of Cabinet Affairs Martin Elia Lomuro of money laundering allegations levelled against him by the Asset Recovery Agency (ARA).

ARA froze Lomuro’s two bank accounts in June 2021. The bank accounts contained $124,000 (Ksh13.42 million), one of which transacted in US dollars.

According to ARA, Lomuro’s accounts had several suspicious transactions and a transfer of half a million US dollars between them that prompted the move to freeze them.

“I thank the Kenya High Court for its absolute integrity and for upholding high standards of the rule of law, justice and equality for all regardless of nationality before the law in Kenya,” Lomuro said after the ruling.

Lady Justice C. Githui ruled that the applicant, Asset Recovery Agency, was satisfied with the explanation provided by the respondent (Martin Elia Lomuro) on the source of the funds.

The court further rescinded the order of June 4, 2021 that was obtained to freeze the bank accounts of Lomuro and granted him liberty to operate his account at Cooperative Bank of Kenya.

Lomuro had filed an application to set aside the order on July 7, 2021. In his affidavit of July 6, 2021, he refuted the money laundering allegations raised against him. He claimed that the funds in his accounts were from his salary, allowances and emoluments as a Minister and Member of Parliament in South Sudan. The embattled politician additionally listed rental income from real estate investments in South Sudan properties as part of the sources of his funds.

Lomuro has been a key member of President Salva Kiir’s government since August 2005 and within the period, served in 3 different ministries before being appointed as Minister of Cabinet Affairs in July, 2013.

Kenya has been a haven for South Sudanese politically exposed persons (PEPs), businessmen and UN-sanctioned individuals. The faction of inviduals have often been accused of continually exploiting the Kenya’s real estate and banking sectors to funnel illicit proceeds derived from plundering their native country’s public coffers.

As reported in the Lomuro case, several South Sudanese leaders continue to own luxury properties, conduct business and access banking services in Kenya with relative ease, even as their own country suffers from deadly violence and repeated humanitarian crises.

Illicit proceeds derived from corruption in South Sudan have been cited as a threat to the integrity of Kenya’s financial system and to the country’s status as a regional economic hub.

Financial analysts reckon that this can easily worsen the problem of de-risking, a move that has seen them call for reinforcing the country’s financial institutions to bolster their compliance efforts ensure they do not provide services to corrupt officials and their associates.

These steps are particularly salient, given Kenya’s mutual evaluation this year by the Eastern and Southern Africa Anti-Money Laundering Group (ESAAMLG), which will assess the country’s anti-money laundering framework and the implementation of laws to disrupt illicit money flows.

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