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How divorce hearing blew lid on Samuel Gichuru’s Sh500m graft case

In what could give Mexican telenovelas a run for their money, a high profile divorce hearing in Kenya blew the lid on one of the most publicised corruption cases in Kenya.

In the case, former Kenya Power Company MD Samuel Gichuru and former Finance Minister Chris Okemo are currently fighting an extradition case where they are wanted in Jersey for laundering Sh539 million.

According to the BBC, it all started in 2006 when Mr Gichuru divorced his wife Salome Njeri after 39 years of marriage.

“When it came to splitting up their assets, Ms Njeri felt she was not getting her fair share,” the BBC reports.

“She alleged some of her husband’s assets were being hidden from the proceedings and, in court, listed details of accounts she said belonged to Mr Gichuru in Jersey, which is often associated with secretive offshore banking and a low-tax environment.”

The court filing touched off a nine-year probe by the Jersey government.

“As part of that investigation, in 2011, they accused Mr Gichuru and Mr Okemo of taking kickbacks from multinationals which were sent to a Jersey-registered company,” adds BBC.

MONEY LAUNDERING

“The Jersey authorities issued arrest warrants for both men and have been waiting for their extradition from Kenya ever since.”

In 2016, 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.

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.

And this week, Kenya and Jersey have signed an asset recovery agreement that will see the return of Sh450 million in stolen funds confiscated from former government officials.

The funds will now be used to support the government’s ongoing response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

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