A court in Nairobi sentenced ex-assistant general manager with the Insurance Company of East Africa (ICEA) Lincoln Kivuti Njeru for nine years for stealing Sh62.8 million in what was discovered that the company lost a colossal sum of money.
Mr Njeru, 58, received the Sh62.7 million through Nyaga stockbrokers for sale of ICEA share investments and channeled the proceeds to his personal accounts. The money was supposed to be wired to the insurance firm’s accounts. But instead of wiring the funds to the insurance firm’s accounts, he deposited it to his personal accounts. He also invested some at the Nairobi Securities Exchange, but claimed that he would have refunded the money only that the share value at the Nairobi bourse got eroded.
At one time Mr Njeru, the then investment manager at the firm, said the cash got lost through erosion of share value at the Nairobi bourse.
“From the totality of evidence presented by the prosecution the losses experienced by ICEA were correctly linked to the accused person and not as investment losses as he purported,” Magistrate Andayi stated in his sentence adding that the accused could not explain the source of the millions of shillings he held in his bank accounts.
The court found that the money deposited in the accounts of ICEA were withdrawn and deposited into the personal account of Mr Njeru. “From the foregoing and having rejected the probation officer’s recommendation for a non-custodial penalty I hereby order the accused to serve a total of nine years in jail for all the three counts,” the magistrate said.
Mr Njeru attempt to use ill health, including ulcers and high blood pressure, to the criminal suit and difficulties in repaying an Equity Bank loan fell flat in granting him clemency from the sentence.
The court heard that he withdrew the money from HFCK, Barclays Bank (now Absa) and Nyaga Stockbrokers but the amounts ended up in his accounts. Evidence showed that the money was deposited into the accounts of ICEA at the HFCK, then transferred to Barclays and later to the brokerage firm allegedly for investment in stocks.
The father of three blamed his employer for pursuing criminal and civil cases against him in a bid to recover the money. To get back his footing, the accountant took a loan from Equity Bank in 2008 to engage in commercial farming but there returns were very poor, sinking him into more debts.
Mr Njeru was charged with three counts, among them stealing Sh15.6 million between January 17, 2003 and September 2, 2003 from ICEA when he was employed as an assistant general manager.
Evidence showed that some Sh10 million was recovered from him and a further Sh7 million was found in his account.
The magistrate said the accused could not explain the source of the millions of shillings he held in his bank accounts.
Mr Andayi also rejected the probation report where Mr Njeru admitted the theft, offered to seek forgiveness from the ICEA Insurance executive team and asked for a non-custodial sentence on the grounds of ill-health.
The insurer however has had its fair share of legal battles which they have in extreme cases been dragged to court to resolve.
For instance, in 2018, Nairobi Women Hospital rushed to court over Sh54 million compensation awarded to a patient in a medical negligence case. The hospital claimed that the insurance firm agreed to pay Purity Kemunto’s son beyond their agreed policy limit and that ICEA insured it to a tune of Sh10 million for each case.
There are customers that have publicly admonish the insurer for negligence, poor customer relationship and exorbitant charges in its policies questioning the insurers legitimacy.
“Is ICEA a ligit company or a fraud? I have had a very nasty experience trying to get a refund for overpaid premiums from them the last 1 and half months. After asking me to write letters, supply cancelled cheques for the account they are to pay into and with a promise to refund. Not to mention that for them to advise on the value of the investment policy after 10 years is like pulling teeth.” George Rabala shared his predicaments on Facebook page belonging to the insurer.
In January 2019, the insurer forecasted job losses as its market earnings consistently decreased and shrank of the decade.