Blow to Sonko as court freezes his bank accounts again
Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko Thursday suffered a blow after the High Court froze his 10 accounts, holding about Sh18 million, suspected to have been stolen from the county.
The freezing order was granted two days after the embattled governor successfully argued for the lifting of an order obtained by the Assets Recovery Agency (ARA) in December, freezing five of his accounts.
Thursday, Justice Luka Kimaru froze the accounts pending the filing of an application for the amount to be forfeited to the government.
The court barred Mr Sonko from transferring, withdrawing or using the funds deposited in six accounts at Equity Bank, three at Diamond Trust Bank, and another at Co-operative Bank of Kenya.
In the application, the agency said there were suspicious cash deposits and withdrawals between 2017 and 2020, an indication of money laundering activities.
The agency showed, in court documents, that in one of the accounts, which holds Sh4.2 million, there were 35 deposits and withdrawals totalling Sh45 million between July 5, 2017 and March 2, 2019.
In yet another account held at Equity Bank, there were a total of 12 withdrawals and deposits, all amounting to Sh28.3 million.
On July 2017, Mr Sonko allegedly received Sh3.4 million from Arbab Auto Ltd which was deposited in four different accounts.
ARA said investigations revealed that most of the deposits were tranches of below Sh1 million, to evade the reporting threshold of proceeds of Crime and Anti-Money Laundering Act and Central Bank of Kenya prudential guidelines.
The agency said there are reasonable grounds to believe that the cash was part of funds stolen from the county government.
“That as stated, the investigations in this matter have established that the accounts are holding funds suspected to be proceeds of crime, which require the accounts to be frozen pending filing and hearing of intended forfeiture application,” said Mr Jeremiah Sautet, an investigator.
Mr Sonko had last month pleaded with a magistrate saying he was unable to access his bank accounts since December 23, a move that adversely affected his family.
Through lawyer Harrison Kinyanjui, Mr Sonko said freezing his accounts was unjust, oppressive and unconstitutional.
He argued that the court was not given compelling reasons or proof to raise reasonable suspicion on claims of fraudulent transactions, but only unsubstantiated allegations. The accounts were later unfrozen by Chief Magistrate Martha Mutuku because there was no link between the money and loss of funds at the county.
Mr Sonko was charged in December together with senior officials in his administration and was released after posting a Sh15 million cash bail.