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Rwandan investor Desire Muhinyunza in ownership tussle faces fresh Sh74 million headache

A fresh row has erupted between the lawyers who prosecuted the Sh400 million ownership dispute involving Rwandan investor Desire Muhinyunza over a Sh74 million demand in legal fees.

Mr Muhinyunza who was recently declared by the courts as the legal owner of Stay Online Limited, (SOL) is now urging the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) to probe lawyers Omwanza Nyamweya and Ivy Ateko Ingati who represented businessman Kirimi Koome.

He accuses the two lawyers of irregularly attempting to retain Sh74,300,000 which belongs to merchants whose goods were on the online platform.

SOL holds the funds in its accounts before releasing it to merchants.

It retains a commission from the sales.

On December 29, 2023, Mr Koome who was battling over the ownership of SOL with Muhinyunza sacked all the advocates who were representing him in the case when the court ordered DCI to release the frozen monies to the investor.

Mr Koome was being represented by lawyers Omwanza Nyamweya and Ivy Ateko Ingati, whom Mr Muhinyunza accuses of attempting to defraud SOL of the merchants’ money.

And in a bid to resolve the Sh74,300,000 legal fees claim by advocates Omwanza Nyamweya and Ivy Ateko Ingati from Stay Online Limited (SOL), High Court Judge Josephine Wayua Wambua Mong’are referred the case to Justice Alfred Mabeya who handled the ownership dispute.

The case was mentioned before Justice Mong’are for directions on December 28, 2023, when she gave the directions.

She directed the issues of the money demanded by lawyers Omwanza and Ingati in legal fees to be determined by Justice Mabeya, the head of the Commercial Division of the High Court who heard the ownership of SOL and the merchants money.

But Mr Muhinyunza has protested the move to hive Sh74m from the USD ($)2.6m (KSh400m), which had been frozen by the court on October 23, 2023, to protect it from being misappropriated by Mr Koome with whom they had been battling over the control and management of SOL.

Justice Mabeya on December 27, 2023 ruled that SOL belongs to Mr Muhinyunza.

Justice Mabeya removed Mr Koome from SOL after finding that he had committed fraud by failing to fill the Forms of beneficial owners of the company when he registered it on April 14, 2023.

Mr Koome had been appointed during an SOL, Rwanda board meeting on April 1, 2023 to register the Kenya branch of the company which is also operating in Canada, Estonia, Zambia, Uganda, and Tanzania.

The judge further ruled that the USD ($) 2.6m (KSh400m) held in bank accounts belongs to merchants who trade using SOL’s online platform to sell their goods.

Through lawyer Danstan Omari, Mr Muhinyunza has sought the intervention of the director of public prosecutions (DPP) and the directorate of criminal investigations (DCI) to probe how a consent order was obtained fraudulently to unlawfully utilize the money held by the company in trust for merchants.

Mr Muhinyunza states that he has since discovered the existence of a parallel concealed in which a Consent Order had been fraudulently obtained on October 30, 2023 “wherein it was agreed to unlawfully utilize the money held at UBA for SOL in trust for merchants for the benefit of the law firms of Omwanza &Areba and Ivy Ateko Ingati-Advocate.”

Mr Omari has disclosed to the DCI and DPP that the proceedings that gave birth to the consent order “were stage-managed and done in collusion by Omwanza &Areba Associates and Ivy Ateko Ingati-Advocate.”

Mr Muhinyunza who has since been declared by High Court Judge Alfred Mabeya, the sole beneficial owner of SOL had sued Kenyan Businessman Kirimi Koome and the Registrar of Companies has protested the move by lawyer Omwanza Nyamweya and Ivy Ateko Ingati to demand retention of Sh74,300,000.

In the correspondence received and stamped (received) by the DCI and DPP’s offices on December 28 and 29 2023 respectively and seen by the Nation, Mr Muhinyunza alleges, “there is imminent theft of SOL’s money held at United Bank of Africa (UBA).”