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Absa’s Deals Hit The Roof as More Scandals Emerge in Theft Probe

Even as the troubled Absa Bank in Kenya battles to clear its tainted image in the banking sector, much is happening that could make it difficult for the institution to fully recover from its dark side.

Chief Financial Officer Yusuf Omari, CEO Abdi Mohamed and Moses Muthui

So far, some staff have been sent home in a fraud probe, as the bank’s employees based in Digo Road and Nyali branch have become even more lethal.

There are claims in May 2024, the staff in Digo and Nyali branches colluded to swindle Sh106 million from a client.

The client is a retired Ambassador who has also served in the Kenya Defence Forces (Kenya Navy).

While he thought his pension was safe in the bank, investigations show that bank staff from the two branches changed the signing mandates on the account without the client’s authority, introduced a fake telephone number, opened a fictious account and made away with the Ksh 106 million.

The fraudsters introduced a spouse to the account with a signing mandate that anyone could sign.

The said proxy started withdrawing large amounts of cash (over Ksh 5 million) from branches against the regulator’s cash regulations.

For instance, branch manager Jonesmus Mwambire approved a withdrawal of Ksh 7 million, prompting Fadhiya Nordin, the regional Absa boss, to suspend him.

Nordin was overheard telling customers that she knows their problems and assuring them that she will weed out all the fraudulent staff, including notorious Wycliff Makori and other suspected corrupt staff who have been mentioned in numerous unwelcoming allegations.

Mwambire was denied the regional manager position, for which he had acted for six months.

Insiders say this has led to the suspension of the branch manager at the Digo branch, Jonesmus Mwambire, his operations manager, and a relationship manager based in the Nyali Branch.

Nothing has been done to Serah Muthui the branch manager at Nyali who is a sister to Moses Muthui who is the consumer banking Director.

Insiders say she made all the arrangements, including getting the person to withdraw the money from the branches in Nairobi.

She was also eying the position of the regional boss after several failed attempts by his brother.

The unfair treatment of staff at Absa worries a section of the innocent staff.

Some senior executives led by the Chief Finance Officer (CFO) Yusuf Omari and the other directors have put much pressure on the legal team and business support and recoveries team to foreclose cases in court or fastrack the recoveries process using auctioneers that are known to them and who can influence the auction process and nominate friends to place winning bids.

The friends who win the auction bids for bank-repossessed properties or bank properties being auctioned are also financed by the bank despite some of them not qualifying for the facility.

The approval process is fast-tracked by the credit teams who are also paid by the cartels.

The properties are later transferred to the bank executives through companies registered in the name of Law firms most of which are also on the panel of the bank.

The greed is so bad that the bank is also disposing of some of its branches at throwaway prices.

After the sale of the Absa Bamburi branch to Omari’s proxies at 30 percent of its market value, pressure is now being put on the bosses and the corporate services department headed by Gilbert Ngetich to dispose of the Diani Branch, which sits on a 15-acre beach plot.

The Diani branch also has two bank-owned cottages, three and four bedrooms each, situated alongside the beach, which borders the multimillion leisure lodge hotel and golf club.

The bank cartels who include senior executives are fighting for the Diani property to be disposed off.

The dilapidated Absa Bank building along Mombasa-Malindi Road, adjacent to Whitesands Hotel, has reportedly been illegally acquired. The bank building, situated on a one-acre plot, has been grabbed by Yusuf Omari, the Absa Chief Finance Officer, along with other senior Absa staff members, including Moses Muthui.

The property is valued at over Ksh 400 million but they are demanding to sell it to their proxies at a throwaway price of not more than Ksh 120 million.

The board room wars saw the bank’s director of treasury management who was reporting to CFO Omari resign after he differed with the EXCO strategy and was kicked out of the EXCO over the dealings.

The forceful disposal of the client properties has also seen the banks long serving head of SME Susan Situma tender his resignation after she differed with the credit director and Business Banking Director Elizabeth Wasuna on how SME clients were being treated by the bank.

Most of them have their properties auctioned and disposed to the bank’s official proxies.

Susan Situma’s frustration was also fuelled by how the bank chose to handle the long outstanding matter of New Mega Africa where after the bank officials based in Mombasa led by Wycliffe Makori Maina and Sophie Omondi blackmailed the client, leaked their information to competitors and third parties and extorted millions of shillings from the client.

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The bank cancelled the facility, recalled the facility and issued a statutory demand on the property after the bank noticed its employees have misbehaved and brought down the client’s business and the client has filled a case of damages of Sh1.5 billion against the bank.

The bank tried to have the file disposed knowing the matter would not proceed after a meeting with court officials at Tamarind Hotel Mombasa on November 1, 2022.

Shockingly even after the intensive meeting, the company through its legal team did not file a defence exposing the absa shareholders to Ksh 1.5 billion claim.

Officials say over Ksh 3 million exchanged hands and the meeting was facilitated by the CFO Omari when he was the acting MD and Moses Muthui being the chief strategy officer.

Among those who attended the meeting include Ken Kenyarati (head of legal), Wilson, (the absa company secretary), Elizabeth Wasuna (business banking director), Nyariki from Mombasa law court and a senior partner from a legal firm.

What irked Susan forcing her to resign was two of the bank senior executives were also jostling for New Mega property located in Kitisuru, Nairobi.

The property is valued at over Ksh 100 million yet the bank wants to dispose it to its senior executives at Ksh 50 million despite the company having an order of stay pending the hearing and determination of the matter as directed by the court.

Susan has also disagreed with the bank on how Makori has not been summoned for disciplinary action yet he is the mastermind of the New Mega matter.

The bank considers him a key witness in the New Mega case and he has been guaranteed protection whatsoever.

He was promoted to be a corporate credit analyst, which is putting big corporate clients in Mombasa at risk.

Some of the cooperates that are uncomfortable with there information being in the hands of the Mastermind Wycliffe Makori include; Bamburi Cement, Devki steel, Prime Fuels, Premium Energy, Premier hospital, Mombasa Maize millers and Kitui Flour and many others who have raised the issues with management but they have assumed the cry of the clients who are now working to move their business to other banks.

Some are even forcing the bank to sign the non-disclosure agreements, committing that non of the information is going to be accessed by one Wycliff Makori.

The Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) and the Absa’s headquarters in South Africa have launched investigations into all activities of the bank’s branches across the country.

Initiatives are also under way to have senior staff investigated over properties they have acquired in recent times between 2018 and 2024, the period the bank’s employees have been ok the spot over serious allegations of money laundering.