The Asset Recovery Agency (ARA) seems to be the new sheriff in town and is sending shivers down the spines of corruption lords and suspects more than the dreaded Ethics and Anti Corruption Commission (EACC) and Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI).
Suspects who have fallen victim of the ARA’s unlimited powers include former powerful government officials, politicians, prominent traders and wheeler-dealers.
Once the ARA is granted leave by the court to seize or freeze corruption suspects assets, businesses can’t be run and cash bails can’t even be paid.
Among those who have experienced the power of the ARA are the Ngiritas and former National Youth Service Principal Secretary Lilian Omollo.
Up to date, ARA has frozen approximately Sh8.6 million in cash and assets belonging to corruption suspects, with assets ranging from houses, land to luxury cars.
On January 23, Phyllis Njeri Ngirita, one of the suspects in the NYS graft case, broke down in a Nairobi court after a magistrate pushed forward a ruling on her application to be allowed to withdraw Sh800,000 from her frozen bank account.
Njeri’s lawyer had told the court the money was to pay school fees for her son at Pembroke House School in Gilgil, which had run into arrears amounting Sh3.4 million.
She co-owns Njewanga Enterprises with her mother Lucy Wambui and brother Jeremiah Gichini. The trio are facing charges relating to the loss of Sh468 million at the NYS and they were the first casualty of the ARA which cam was created in 2015.
The ARA obtained court orders that allowed it to seize or freeze the Ngiritas assets, including bank accounts, land and high-end vehicles.
The forme NYS PS has been fighting to access her bank accounts, saying that she needs the cash to meet basic needs such as buying food, paying rent and school fees.
The High Court authorised the freezing of 10 bank accounts with Sh33.1 million belonging to Ms. Omollo and her children on suspicion they were used as conduits for siphoning of millions of shillings from the NYS.
ARA director, Muthoni Kimani, told People Daily that the agency has set sights on accounts of more individuals suspected of involvement in corruption.
“All we need is to have a whiff from a whistleblower or through our own initiative that someone has money or assets that are questionable. We investigate and summon the subject, and if they cannot explain, we freeze,” said Mohammed Adow, a senior counsel at ARA.