Kenya: Swiss Deal on Stolen Cash Boosts Graft War

Switzerland President Alain Berset (standing left) and President Uhuru Kenyatta witness the signing of an agreement for return of stolen assets by Swiss Ambassador to Kenya Ralf Henker (left) and Attorney-General Justice Paul Kihara at State House on July 9, 2018.
editorial

The deal signed between Kenya and Switzerland on recovery of cash and assets acquired through corruption marks an important step in the fight against the vice that has networks far and wide.

It is no longer tenable to plunder national resources and keep the proceeds abroad and enjoy it without sanctions.

This is one of the outcomes of the meeting between President Uhuru Kenyatta and visiting Swiss leader Alain Berset, who committed to a joint strategy to rein in the lords of corruption who have found a safe haven in foreign countries.

Switzerland is among the few traditional destinations for stolen public money, given the secretive banking rules that easily shield looters from scrutiny.

Kenya has agonised over ways and means of retrieving stolen public money and other assets hidden in offshore accounts, the preferred location for the looters, because of lack of frameworks for cooperation.

MAJOR SCANDALS

Past major scandals such as Anglo Leasing were executed through international connections with payments made abroad and a tight lid kept on the accounts, making it extremely difficult to reach the plotters and the loot. So far, Switzerland has confiscated assets worth Sh200 million accruing from that scam, which is a small percentage of the total amount that was lost.

In the same vein, huge sums of money stolen from the energy sector in the 1990s and stashed in accounts in Jersey Islands for which Kenya has had difficulty recovering because of vexed judicial processes should be followed up.

We are happy that the landscape is changing as nations seek collaboration to fight transnational crime, more so in this age of terror and money laundering.

No longer can nations sit pretty and pretend that any money can pass through their financial system, especially when the source is known to be dubious.

ILLICIT MONEY

Already, a precedent has been set with Nigeria, where billions of dollars looted during the regimes of the previous rulers such as Sani Abacha, have been confiscated and repatriated to the country.

Nigeria has the inglorious experience of illicit money movements and the action that was taken sends a strong signal that the end is nigh for crooked transactions.

However, the success of the anti-graft crusade will only be felt if, likewise, the government intensifies recovery of stolen public money and properties kept within our borders.

Clearly, the Kenya-Swiss pact on the recovery of stolen public funds and assets is a big step in curbing corruption. The team appointed to steer the process must fine-tune the details and get down to implementation immediately.

Kenya must seek similar deals with other countries.

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