21 March 2019

Kenya: New Twist in Sh2 Billion Fake Notes Scandal at Barclays

The police could have stumbled on an international syndicate that dupes people into buying fake gold and currency as investigations on the Sh2 billion worth of counterfeit dollars found at a branch belonging to Barclays Bank of Kenya hit the second day.

This is after they discovered fake gold thought to belong to the main suspect in the matter of Eric Adede Wednesday evening.

Unlike on Tuesday when the fake money was found, Barclays Bank has maintained silence in the wake of pressure from the public.

The gravity of the situation was accentuated by Director of Criminal Investigations (DCI) George Kinoti who asked for time to give media an official statement.

"Be patient, this thing is very big. Give us time. We'll update you with the information in due time," the DCI said.

SUSPECTS

Questionably safe deposit boxes in banks are usually about 12 inches square, but the box displayed by the DCI as having been found with the fake dollars was about a metre square.

How the syndicate managed to store the fake currency and gold within the premises of a bank of international repute is still an unanswered question.

Police are suspecting more employees from the Queensway branch of Barclays, and they could be closing in on them in the next few days.

The discovery of the fake money and gold has further raised questions about Kenya's banking system and the audacity of criminal rings that now seem to have infiltrated the financial system.

Fake currency and gold syndicates usually dupe buyers to deposit money for the gold or cash, but never deliver.

SAFETY BOXES

Police believe the suspects in custody had decided to store their fake gold and cash in a bank in order to evade detection.

Most banks provide the boxes that are typically located in a highly secure and private part of the bank for customers to lease at a fee.

The boxes that can be operated by up to two people, including an authorised agent, can only be accessed during normal working hours.

Those intending to open one need to submit their national IDs and passports for verification. On Tuesday night, Barclays insisted that it was not within their mandate to know what its customers store in their safe deposit boxes.

"The customer had concealed fake currency in his personal safe deposit box against the bank's rules and regulations, which include restrictions of items, which can be held in the safe deposit box," the bank said.

"Barclays Bank, in the usual course of business, offers safe deposit boxes. The contents of personal safe are only known to the client. We continue to fully assist the authorities with this investigation," the bank said.

CONFIDENTIALITY

The Kenya Bankers Association (KBA), an umbrella body for all lenders, has also sided with Barclays.

"Ordinarily, banks do not ask to know the contents. And by the way a number of entities can provide the service including hotels. Customers just prefer banks because they are deemed to be safe," Mr Habil Olaka, the chief executive of KBA, told the Daily Nation.

In custody are Mr Erick Adede, who police think is the owner of the safe deposit box and money, Mr Ahmed Shah, Ms Elizabeth Muthoni and Ms Irene Wairimu Kimani.

Bank's staff, Mr Boaz Ochich and Mr Charles Manzi, are also in custody.

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