Kenyan Bank Link in South Sudan Bribery

Soldiers patrol an oil field in Paloug, in South Sudan's Upper Nile state
26 September 2021

Security printing firm De La Rue may have paid bribes to South Sudan officials through a Kenyan bank, this is according to a report by a United Nations body, which detail many other suspicious transactions.

The report published by the UN's Human Rights Council says De La Rue transferred some $1.4 million (Sh155 million) to an account at Equity Bank held by a Mr Emmanuel Makuach Ayuel, a consultant at Bank of South Sudan. The transfers were made in batches between 2016 and September 2017.

The Bank of Sudan awarded the UK firm a contract to produce banknotes in 2011.

"The total value of the contract between De La Rue PLC and the Government of South Sudan is estimated to be $144 million (Sh15.9 billion). The total value of the payments made by De La Rue PLC to Emmanuel Makuach Ayuel is $1.4 million (Sh155 million). Therefore, approximately one per cent of the estimated value of the contract was paid to Emmanuel Makuach Ayuel," the report states.

The monies were transferred from De La Rue PLC bank accounts held in the UK directly to Mr Ayuel's accounts at Equity Bank.

The report argues that by diverting staggering amounts of money from South Sudan's public coffers and resources, the country's elite are undermining human rights and endangering security.

$73 million

The Commission says that more than $73 million (Sh8 billion) was diverted in two years from 2018. About half of that amount was transacted in a period of less than two months.

Allegations of bribery by De La Rue in the South Sudan money printing contract were made by the UK's Serious Fraud Office (SFO) in July 2019 but yielded little and were dropped in June 2020 after the office concluded "there was no realistic prospect of conviction and public interest in bringing a case".

"Despite the announcement (by SFO), the Commission notes with concern the suspected corruption regarding this contract, which has been widely reported in the media," the report states.

Their investigations produced evidence of at least two deposits to Mr Ayuel's bank account of $253,166.87 (Sh28 million) and $202,528.31 (Sh22 million) prior to March 2016. After the first deposit, cash withdrawals to the tune of Sh7.7 million were made. This happened after the second deposit. The report states that all withdrawals were done at Equity Bank's Lavington branch in Nairobi.

The commission says it reached out to De La Rue, South Sudan's Ministry of Finance, Bank of South Sudan, Equity Bank and Mr Ayuel on the matter.

"Equity Bank subsequently engaged with the Commission and stated that it was considering the request for information," the report states.

It is not clear if Equity provided the information. The other institutions did not reply, while Mr Ayuel refused to speak to investigators.

"If these payments represented legitimate business transactions, they would have been expected to have been made into a business account - rather than into a personal account," it adds.

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