The High Court of Kenya has ordered that Sh 102 million transferred by a Belgian crypto-millionaire to his Kenyan girlfriend be forfeited to the state as proceeds of crime.
The Controversial Gift
Marc De Mesel, a well-known investor and YouTube personality in the cryptocurrency world, gifted the money to Felista Nyamathira Njoroge, a 21-year-old college student, in December 2020. He claimed that he was in love with her and wanted to help her start a business.
However, the Asset Recovery Agency (ARA) of Kenya suspected that the money was part of a money laundering scheme and an international criminal organization. The ARA obtained a court order to freeze Njoroge’s bank account and investigate the source and purpose of the funds.
De Mesel and Njoroge challenged the order, arguing that they had met online and developed a genuine relationship. They also presented documents showing that De Mesel had earned the money from his investments in Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies since 2008.
The Court Ruling
Justice Esther Maina dismissed their arguments and ruled in favour of the ARA. She said that De Mesel and Njoroge had failed to explain the origin and legitimacy of the money and that their relationship was not credible.
She said that De Mesel had not shown how he acquired the cryptocurrencies, how he converted them to fiat currency, and how he transferred them to Njoroge’s account. She also noted that he had sent large sums of money to three other Kenyan women, raising doubts about his intentions.
She said that Njoroge had not shown any evidence of her business plan or how she intended to use the money. She also questioned why she accepted such a huge amount of money from a stranger without verifying his identity or background.
She concluded that the money was “unexplained wealth” and “suspected proceeds of crime” under the Proceeds of Crime and Anti-Money Laundering Act. She ordered that the money be forfeited to the state within 14 days.
De Mesel and Njoroge have not commented on the ruling. According to some reports, De Mesel has disappeared in Kenya after being wanted by the authorities for money laundering and being part of an international criminal organization.
He has also been accused of fraud and tax evasion in Belgium, where he faces arrest warrants and lawsuits from former business partners and investors.
Njoroge has reportedly gone into hiding after receiving threats from unknown people who claim to be part of De Mesel’s criminal network. She has also been harassed by some members of the public who accuse her of being a gold digger and a scammer.