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Covid-19 takes economic hitmen out of the game

FINANCIAL STANDARD
By Frankline Sunday | September 14th 2021

The anti-corruption watchdog says 163 investigation files on corruption and economic crimes were completed. [Courtesy]

In a trending Tik Tok video, a man sits cross-legged with his face hidden from the camera as a printing machine churns out crisp Sh1,000 notes. 

In another video, three men sit in an upmarket apartment in front of another machine as two of them demonstrate to their acquaintance, who is secretly recording the episode, how the machine works before they have a falling out.

The videos, still making rounds on social media, came in the wake of allegations of money laundering syndicates in Nairobi involving politicians and celebrities that drew shock and concern from Kenyans.

Economic crimes like money laundering and forgery have been a perennial concern for law enforcement agencies and are often linked to systemic vices, such as terrorism financing and drug trafficking, which traverse borders and destabilise societies. 

The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in March last year virtually ground the country’s economy to a halt after the government announced restriction of movement and physical distancing measures to curb the spread of the virus. 

According to the Economic Survey 2021 from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), the slowdown in economic activity had a corresponding reduction in the number of reported economic crimes in the country last year.     

“The total number of crimes reported to the police declined by 25.4 per cent to 69,645 cases in 2020,” explains the statistics office in the report.

“Similarly, the number of offenders reported to the police to have committed offences declined by 21.0 per cent to 65,083 persons in 2020.” 

Economic crimes, including obtaining by false pretence and currency forgery, fell 27 per cent from 4,786 in 2019 to 3,488, the lowest level since 2016. The figures backed a trend, where reported economic crimes in the country steadily increased at an average of 10 per cent between 2016 and 2019. 

And while corruption offences recorded a 2.3 per cent increase, cases reported by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) to the office of Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) for investigations, declined by 36.2 per cent to 2,221. 

This could be attributed to the disruption wrought by the pandemic on operations in the public and private sectors, with budget absorption at the EACC down two per cent compared to the previous year. 

“The commission filed applications and obtained warrants to investigate 767 bank accounts in respect to persons or associates of persons suspected of engaging in corruption, economic crimes or related offences,” says EACC in its latest annual report. 

Economic crimes like money laundering and forgery have been a perennial concern for law enforcement agencies. [Courtesy]

The anti-corruption watchdog says 163 investigation files on corruption and economic crimes were completed and forwarded to the DPP. 

Some of the high-profile cases include an inquiry into the alleged use of false documents by Purple Saturn Properties, a firm that has also been mentioned in the ownership wrangles of the multi-billion-shilling Tatu City development project. 

According to the EACC, the probe in the Ministry of Lands stretching back over four years sought to determine whether Purple Saturn Properties had used forged documents to facilitate fraudulent sales of 1,183 hectares of land in Kiambu County. 

Another concluded high profile case looked into allegations of procurement irregularities in the construction of the Lake Basin Development Authority (LBDA) shopping mall in Kisumu, where Sh2.5 billion was at stake. 

“During the 2019/2020 financial year, the value of assets recovered was approximately Sh12.1 billion and 14 applications for the preservation of assets valued at approximately Sh9.4 billion were filed in court,” says EACC in its report. 

“Further, 88 illegally acquired public assets with an estimated value of Sh25 billion were traced and the recovery process is ongoing. Disruption of corruption networks was undertaken, averting a possible loss estimated at Sh10 billion.” With more people working and studying from home, however, there was an unprecedented rise in cybercrime, with cyber advisories issued by the government spiking by 54 per cent to 81,727.

Covid 19 Time Series

 

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