Africa: Kenyan Man Pleads Guilty to U.S.$241 Million Covid-19 Fraud Scheme

26 January 2023

Harare — Do you remember the Pandora Papers? The secret deals and hidden assets of some of the world's richest and most powerful people were revealed in the biggest trove of leaked offshore data in history.

What the leak showed most of us was that many of the power players who could help bring an end to the offshore system, instead benefit from it - stashing assets in covert companies and trusts while their governments do little to slow a global stream of illicit money that enriches criminals and impoverishes nations.

Today we may have a Pandora Papers 2.0 where a law firm known as Mossack Fonseca has been creating a complex web of offshore entities using lies and deception, illegally accessing billions, the Nation reveals.

But as the company worked to increase its profits, according to the report, it left behind leaks that revealed how flimsy and unstable the transactions were, making it simple for investigators to spot a money-laundering scheme that entailed setting up offshore businesses and moving money across continents.

According to investigators from the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Criminal Investigations, and U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the leaks from the scam cost the U.S. government U.S.$247 million (Sh30.8 billion) in Covid-19 funds and exposed 47 people and the properties they acquired around the world.

One 43-year-old Kenyan suspect, Liban Yasin Alishire, has pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud and one count of money laundering, in his role that exploited a federally-funded child nutrition programme during the Covid-19 pandemic, announced U.S. Attorney Andrew M. Luger.

According to the U.S. Justice Department, Alishire, registered Community Enhancement Services and Lake Street Kitchen as sites for the Federal Child Nutrition Programme's Covid-19 pandemic meal distribution to impoverished children under the sponsorship of Feeding Our Future. He then started submitting fictitious documentation that claimed he was providing meals to hundreds or thousands of children every day, even though the actual number was much lower. He would make up bogus receipts for the amount of food he was purchasing and fabricate the identities of the children who received the meals.

Additionally, Alishire ran Ace Distribution Services, which claimed to deliver meals for children at the Community Enhancement Services facility. Over 800,000 meals were purportedly served between February and October 2021 by Community Enhancement Services, while over 70,000 meals were purportedly served between December 2020 and April 2021 by Lake Street Kitchen. In reality, the two organizations only provided a small portion of the meals reported, yet they still received more than U.S.$966,000 (Sh124 million). A large portion of this money was transferred by Alishire through front businesses, to himself and other people.

A multimillion resort in Diani and plush houses in Nairobi are among the properties Alishire has agreed to forfeit, after entering a guilty plea.

"Alishire pleaded guilty today in the U.S. District Court presided by Judge Nancy E. Brasel - to one count of wire fraud and one count of money laundering. As part of his plea agreement, Alishire will forfeit a boat and trailer, a Ford F150 pickup truck, an apartment unit in Nairobi, Kenya, and the Karibu Palms Resort on the Indian Ocean in Kenya. Alishire also agreed to a $712,084.00 (Sh88,5 million) forfeiture money judgment. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled at a later time," read a U.S. Justice Department statement.

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