Power struggle over lucrative online business lands boss in jail
Kenyan businessman Kirimi Koome finds himself behind bars, accused of defrauding Rwandese entrepreneur Desire Muhinyuza of approximately Sh390 million in a complex online business scam. Koome’s arrest came following a warrant issued by Senior Principal Magistrate Gilbert Shikwe of Milimani Law Courts.
The warrant was issued based on an application by lawyer Danstan Omari and state prosecutor James Gachoka, who argued that the interests of investors needed safeguarding.
According to Mr Omari, the funds in question were linked to merchants using Koome’s online platform, Stay Online Limited (SOL), to market their products.
SOL earned commissions from the sales, making the protection of this money a top priority.
“The Judiciary should protect investors and apply the law squarely on those bent on benefiting from others’ hard work,” Mr Omari emphasised during his application to the court. He vehemently opposed an application by lawyer Cliff Ombeta to have Koome’s warrant of arrest lifted.
The Sh390 million, now the subject of intense legal scrutiny, is held in two Nairobi banks and stems from various online business activities. To safeguard these substantial funds from potential misuse, Senior Principal Magistrate Bernard Ochoi recently froze SOL’s accounts at Equity Bank Limited (EBL) and United Bank Africa Limited (UBA).
Desire Muhinyuza, the Rwandese entrepreneur, is pitted against Kirimi Koome in a legal battle to determine ownership of Stay Online Limited (SOL), Kenya. Furthermore, the case is set to be heard by a presiding judge in the Commercial Division and another in the Criminal Division, Lady Justice Lilian Mutende.
Koome contends that he is the sole owner of Stay Online Limited, Kenya, while Muhinyuza asserts that Koome was appointed as SOL’s proxy in Kenya due to the complexities associated with foreign entrepreneurs registering businesses in the country.
“I was referred to one Koome Kirimi by Patrick Gakuba, the EBL Rwanda e-commerce manager, to assist me in registering Stay Online Limited, Kenya, under his name with 100% shares in my representation by trust on April 14, 2023, due to my foreign immigration status at the time,” disclosed Muhinyuza.
Muhinyuza’s lawyers claim that he has since regularised his immigration status, but Koome has not fulfilled the agreement to transfer the company back to him. Instead, it is alleged that Koome began making extortionate demands, threatening to cripple SOL’s operations in Kenya if he was not paid $120,000 to an EBL account.
In response to these threats, Muhinyuza initiated the transfer of funds to Koome’s account from SOL’s bank accounts held at Access Bank Rwanda to a UBA account in Kenya. Furthermore, Koome is accused of attempting to embezzle money through various tactics, such as claims of tax payments.
Stay Online Limited was initially registered in Rwanda in 2013 and subsequently sought expansion into Zambia, Kenya, and Uganda during a board of directors meeting. The court was informed that SOL also established business links with Canada.
Desire Muhinyuza revealed that Kirimi Koome had willingly resigned from his position as a proxy, with his role being transferred to Ambrose Wamari Obara. Koome signed the necessary documents for this transfer, and Muhinyuza questioned why Koome was requesting money from the company account for “future taxes.”
Wamari reported to Central Police Station that Koome was accessing SOL’s bank accounts illegally, while Koome allegedly sent an email to UBA to revoke Muhinyuza’s digital banking rights.