JUBA – South Sudan’s minister of cabinet affairs who is under United States sanctions has denied any wrongdoing after the Kenyan High Court issued order freezing millions of shillings in his account saying there have been a lot of suspicious transactions suggesting to money laundering, accused Americans of hiring Kenyan authorities to confiscate his money.
Yesterday, Kenyan media reported that High Court of Kenya has frozen the bank accounts of South Sudan’s Cabinet Affairs Minister, Dr. Martin Elia Lomuro, for suspected money laundering.
Justice James Wakiaga issued the orders freezing Martin Elia Lomuro’s bank accounts containing Sh13.42 million (US $ 124,547) following a case filed by Kenya’s Asset Recovery Agency (ARA).
In a case filed by the senior state counsel, Stephen Githinji, on behalf of the ARA director, the agency said Lomuro’s account at the bank made several suspicious transactions pointing to money laundering.
“There are reasonable grounds to believe that the funds held by the respondent in the specified bank account are direct benefits, profits and or proceeds of crime obtained from a complex money-laundering scheme and are liable to be forfeited to the state under the Proceeds of Crime and Anti-Money Laundering Act, 2009,” the application reads in part.
“Well, you probably know that I have a family in Nairobi (Kenya), with my wife Rejah Keji Ladu with four children. So, as a responsible father, I have to have a (bank) account there and that account is from my legitimate sources of money,” he told Radio Tamazuj today.
The senior government official said he has not even been informed official by the Kenyan authorities about the decision and only learned about the accounts’ freezing via unofficial channels such as the media.
“A certain institution called Kenya Asset Recovery Agency obtained a court ruling to freeze my account. I don’t know the reasons, and as I speak now nobody has informed me, neither the bank nor the agency itself,” Lomuro said.
“So, we have a situation whereby a certain agency calling itself the Kenya Asset Recovery Agency opens a case against me, does not inform me, takes me to court in my absence without informing me, and makes a ruling in my absence. So I am yet to find out what the hell is going on,” he added.
Asked what action he will take, Dr. Lomuro rubbished the freezing of his bank account as a political witch-hunt and took a swipe at the government of the United States of America for instigating it.
“Let me be honest with you. This is a political case. You remember in December 2019, we were sanctioned, me and Gen. Kuol Manyang Juk, by the Americans, not the United Nations. They were accusing us of prolonging the war so we benefit from the war. You have to be stupid to say this kind of thing, but nevertheless they tried to push sanctions against us through the UN and they did not have enough evidence so the UN rejected them. And they decided to impose American sanctions.”
The cabinet minister also took a swipe at the Kenyan government and fingered it for implementing American sanctions and being double-faced.
“The Kenyan Asset Recovery Agency is using those sanctions, so they are implementing the American sanctions. So, that means the government of Kenya, although it is a member of IGAD and the East African Community (EAC) and has strong bilateral relations with South Sudan and publicly states that it is against sanctions on South Sudan, technically speaking, the behavior of this agency, which is like our anti-corruption agency here, means Kenya is underground implementing sanctions against South Sudan,” a cavalier Dr. Lomuro lashed.
He said he has raised the matter to the ministry of foreign affairs and taken it very high up.
He admitted to having an account in Kenya and said he transferred some money to his family in December last year for the purchase of Christmas gifts.
“I have an account with the Co-operative Bank of South Sudan and the Co-operative Bank of Kenya to support my family in Kenya legitimately. What this so-called court should have done is give me the opportunity to defend myself,” a livid Dr. Lomuro said. “It means that this court is politically infiltrated. There are people hired by the Americans in this court and this so-called Kenya Asset Recovery Agency.”
“On the 23 December 2020, I made a family transfer for the purchase of Christmas gifts. This was blocked by Western Union because of these American sanctions. That transfer is the one that the ASA is using to support its intention to implement US sanctions. That is fine and they are entitled as a government of Kenya,” Dr. Lomuro added.