Recovery of loot key in the fight against graft

The Banking Law of 1934 made it a criminal act for a Swiss bank to reveal the name of an account holder. [Courtesy]
Today, with advancing globalisation, there is increasingly no such thing as a purely domestic policy. Our economic, diplomatic, transportation and security policies are deeply intertwined with those of our neighbours and many other nations further afield.

So, too, with the policy of fighting corruption. For many years, Switzerland has been known as a nation with extremely strict banking laws and regulations, especially in terms of secrecy. 

The Banking Law of 1934 made it a criminal act for a Swiss bank to reveal the name of an account holder. The Swiss government views the right to privacy as a fundamental principle that should be protected by all democratic countries.

Thus, Switzerland unwittingly became a haven for those who needed to hide their money, sometimes through illicit gain, from those who wanted these amounts and accounts hidden from the public eye from all over the world, including Kenya.

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So it is gratifying to see Switzerland’s President Alain Berset, in the country on a three day state visit, sign an agreement with President Uhuru Kenyatta that will see his country assist Kenya in war against graft. President Berset promised to work with President Kenyatta to return all stolen assets to the country.

The agreement, Framework for the Return of Assets from Corruption and Crime in Kenya (FRACCK), will see billions of shillings stolen during the Anglo-Leasing and other crimes by individuals, returned to Kenya.

“Corruption destroys democratic institutions and the dreams and aspirations of the people. For that reason, Switzerland’s close cooperation with Kenya in the fight against corruption will be part and parcel of our bilateral talks. Switzerland and Kenya have been working together to fight corruption for quite a number of years. Switzerland has blocked financial assets related to the Anglo-Leasing corruption scandal and is waiting for the judicial proceedings to come to an end in Kenya,” said President Berset.

This is an important coup for President Kenyatta who has made the war on graft one of his central focal points of his tenure.

The agreement with Switzerland will certainly tighten the noose around those who have extracted money from Kenya and used international loopholes to try and remain one step ahead of the law.

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More importantly, the cooperation with the Swiss could lead to repatriation of millions of shillings that will be put back into the public purse to be used to advance the Big Four agenda.

President Berset said as much when he stated that through this new Kenyan-Swiss partnership an agreement can be reached on how best to return these assets, in a way that benefits the people. The Swiss President will undoubtedly be aware that his Kenyan counterpart lives up to his words when he promises that grafted funds repatriated to the country will be put to good use.

For example, last year, President Kenyatta handed over seven ambulances bought with money recovered from a company in the UK found guilty of paying bribes to get Kenyan contracts.

The money was recovered from Smith & Ouzmanthat that was involved in the Chickengate scandal. That scandal was also successfully resolved thanks to cooperation with the UK within the FRACCK.

These successes are credited to President Kenyatta’s war on corruption and the global alliances he has formed to ensure the net is tightening around those who have for far too long used and abused the Kenyan system.

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Having a robust national system for trying to root out corruption would be less effective if there were still numerous havens for those involved to stash away their ill-gotten gain.

However, closing these loopholes one by one and ensuring the results and rewards of the war on corruption are returned to the people are perhaps some of President Kenyatta’s greatest achievement in this tough and long battle to date.

- The writer is an Economics Graduate from the University of Nairobi

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Switzerlandgraft casesfighting graftswiss president alain bersetswiss accounts