Why court took away student's Sh59m gift from Belgian trader

Businessman Marc De Mesel. [Courtesy]

A 23-year-old university student who thought he had hit a Sh59 million jackpot as a gift from a Belgian businessman has lost the loot after the High Court declared it proceeds of crime.

Justice Esther Maina ordered Timothy Waigwa Maina to forfeit to the government all the $390,038 (Sh59,149,262) received from Marc De Mesel for being the proceeds of international crime and money laundering.

“He agreed to his account being used as a conduit to conceal those funds. The circumstances of this case make it clear that he was being used by the Belgian to launder the money which is a crime and he is not entitled to benefit from the tainted funds,” ruled Justice Maina.

Waigwa became the second college student to lose money received from De Mesel over claims that they were proceeds of crime and money laundering. In May, the High Court ordered Felesta Nyamathira Njoroge to also forfeit Sh131 million from the Belgian as a gift to go on holiday and take care of their future family.

The suit was filed by Asset Recovery Agency (ARA) claiming Waigwa was among five beneficiaries, including Njoroge, Tebby Wambuku, Jane Wambui and Serah Wambui Kamanda who received tainted money from the De Mesel totalling Sh650 million.

According to ARA, the Belgian, who claims to be a cryptocurrency dealer, is a fraudster targeting young college students as conduits of money laundered from other countries. Waigwa, a final year student at Kirinyaga University in his defence said he met De Mesel in 2019 and after a brief discussion, the Belgian offered to employ him as a personal assistant with a monthly salary of Sh50,000.

He continued working for the Belgian until April 2021 when De Mesel asked him if he wanted money to invest after which he was gifted Sh59 million. Justice Maina, however, ruled that the huge size of the amount and the fact that De Mesel was also depositing similar large amounts to other young people should have aroused Waigwa’s suspicion.

“In the absence of evidence of a legitimate source, this court is entitled to conclude that these funds were proceeds of crime, hence liable for forfeiture. It is my finding that purporting that the money was a loan or gift was just a way of concealing that it was illicit funds,” ruled Maina.

She added that the fact that Waigwa did not have an established source of income from which he could have earned the huge amount of money at a young age required an explanation from him as to the source of the huge deposits but he failed to do so.

The judge dismissed claims by De Mesel that he acquired the money through cryptocurrency trading, investments in stocks and inheritance from his late mother.

According to the judge, documents presented to the court by the Belgian did not demonstrate that the monies were from a legitimate source and he failed to explain how his investments in cryptocurrency and brokerage had grown so much to warrant the gifts to other people.

“I agree that there is nothing wrong with gifting someone money but the issue is the source. It is intriguing that although he claims he has many different portfolios that helped him make money, he did not avail any evidence to demonstrate how he raised the money from the same,” she ruled.

Justice Maina stated that the huge cash deposits were suspicious in the circumstances and the fact that De Mesel has no criminal record from his country or Kenya does not give legitimacy to his illicit funds.


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