UK detectives in Kenya to trace loot, fight corruption

British High Commissioner to Kenya Nic Hailey (left) with Foreign Affairs PS Macharia Kamau in a toast to celebrate Queen Elizabeth’s 93rd birthday in Nairobi on Thursday. [David Njaaga]
The United Kingdom has sent special investigators into the country to help Kenyan authorities tighten the noose on past and present politicians who have stashed billions of shillings in the UK and its jurisdictions. 

Barely a day after it emerged that the offices of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), as well as the Department of Criminal Investigation (DCI), had solicited the help of the US Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), UK officials said they had dispatched a team of investigators to help Kenya in the war against corruption.

Money trails

Key for the UK would be to provide forensic evidence and concrete money trails that would point Kenyan detectives towards stashes of cash and assets purchased from illegal proceeds.

SEE ALSO :FBI pledges support for Kenya in graft war, terrorism

“We are working hard. We know corruption is pushing back. Money that has been stolen and stacked in international accounts must be recovered and the culprits must be prosecuted,” said  British High Commissioner Nic Hailey at his residence in Nairobi during the celebration of Queen Elizabeth’s 93rd birthday.

Hailey said London and Nairobi had agreed on a two-pronged approach to fighting corruption -- tracing and recovering of stolen money stashed in UK accounts and monitoring attempts by suspects of corruption to change old notes by exchanging the soon to be out of circulation old currency with Sterling Pounds.

“I have spoken with the Treasury. We are keen on those who want to change Kenyan notes into sterling,” said Mr Hailey. 

The Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) has given directive that all old Sh1,000 notes be replaced with the new generation notes before the end of October this year.

“The process is long and complicated. We are tracking bank accounts. The suspects are clever and can attempt to divert the money to other accounts but we shall get them. It is time some big thieves went to jail,” said Hailey, who just fell short of disclosing the names of the politicians and well connected individuals who might fall victim to the anti-corruption purge. 

Although he did not give details of how much stolen money was in foreign accounts, he said the prosecution team in the UK had reported to him that significant steps had been made.

The statement by the High Commissioner comes barely a year after President Uhuru Kenyatta witnessed the signing of an agreement between Kenya and Switzerland aimed at recovering stolen funds in Swiss accounts.

The deal was to facilitate the recovery of stolen cash estimated to be Sh72 billion in Swiss accounts.

In 2017, Jersey and Kenya agreed to the return of millions of shillings in assets recovered from former Finance minister Chris Okemo and former Kenya Power boss Samuel Gichuru.

Mixed reactions

The persistence of corruption in Kenya has been a subject of discussion attracting mixed reactions.

Chief Justice David Maraga and his predecessor Willy Mutunga have both been unapologetic on accusing the political class of messing up the country by engaging in corruption and preventing attempts to rid public institutions of graft.

In 2016, Mutunga termed Kenya a “bandit economy” owing to the powerful cartels driving the country into ruin.

He explained how corruption was a long chain that started from the bottom to the top where powerful forces were engaged in mega corruption scandals that were fleecing the economy.

Recently, CJ Maraga also waded into the subject, lashing out at the executive and legislature for what he termed as “cherry-picking” many provisions of the Constitution.

Speaking at the Oxford Union Conference in the UK, Maraga said the institutions had failed to address corruption and pointed out politicians and tenderpreneurs as forces that have overtaken Kenya.

The pessimism by critics on Kenya’s war on corruption is undeniable considering that high voltage cases have often been downplayed, leading to further loss of public funds.

The case of Nicholas Smith, the owner of a British printing firm who served three years in jail for bribing Kenyan brokers and Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) officials, is an example of the country’s inability to see through its anti-graft war.

While Smith completed his three-year jail term, his Kenyan accomplices continue enjoying the sunshine and consequently signaling a mockery on the fight against corruption.

Yesterday, Anglo Leasing scandal whistle blower John Githong’o termed UK’s move “potentially a very positive development.” 

He however remains pessimistic about Kenya’s efforts in fighting corruption.

“Unfortunately, the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior which doesn’t inspire confidence. One hopes this time around things will be different,” Githongo said.

Register to advertise your products & services on our classifieds website Digger.co.ke and enjoy one month subscription free of charge and 3 free ads on the Standard newspaper.

Federal Bureau of InvestigationsUnited KingdomWar on corruptionCorruption