It will get tougher for corrupt individuals to hide cash after government agencies secured far-reaching agreements for technical help in the war against graft.
Head of the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) and the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) returned from the US where they secured the deals.
After being hit hard by the demonetisation of the Sh1,000 notes and the freezing of the exchange of Kenyan bank notes by Uganda and Tanzania, spaces to hide illicit money continue to shrink with the US joining the war against corruption.
Kenya was in April listed by the US as a global hotspot for money laundering, citing insufficient controls on the circulation of dirty cash and the lack of laws against terrorism financing.
Having already received backing from the UK and the European Union in the cooperation in investigation and prosecution of corruption and terrorism cases, solid assistance from the US was seen as the missing cog in the heightened war that seeks to finally slay the corruption dragon.
While in the US, DPP Noordin Haji and DCI George Kinoti met with Federal Bureau of Investigations Deputy Director David Bowidich, Head of Public Integrity at the Department of Justice Annalou Tirol and US Deputy Attorney-General Bruce Swartz.
Part of their discussions centred on how the world’s most powerful nation can help Kenya in fighting corruption, terrorism and organised crime — specifically money laundering and drug trafficking.
But away from the photo opportunities were resolutions that could have far-reaching implications in the fight against corruption and crime in Kenya.
Washington has offered to attach a senior prosecutor in Nairobi to help strengthen the Kenyan government’s war on corruption.
The US is already one of Kenya’s biggest partners in the war on terrorism, drug and human trafficking. It has recently taken a tough stand in the war against corruption.
KYLE THE CRUSADER
This new modus operandi has been exemplified by the new US ambassador to Nairobi Kyle McCarter, who has surprised and sometimes angered many with his public utterances and tweets about corruption in Kenya.
Since reporting to Nairobi, the ambassador has consistently been firing tweets about corruption using the hashtag #stopthesethieves, which has received mixed reactions from the public.
On Thursday, Mr McCarter sensationally claimed that Kenya loses Sh800 billion every year through corruption.
“There is a big fund available that can fix all your problems. Every year $8 billion is stolen in this country,” said the ambassador while addressing students at Kenyatta University.
“So, you see, 30 per cent of the budget is stolen. Do you know how much the Big Four is worth? $8 billion ironically. So, this country has a choice to make,” he said.
Since being appointed DPP and DCI, Mr Haji and Mr Kinoti have been seeking Mutual Assistance Framework contracts with various countries they hope will help them in transnational investigations and recovery of assets hidden abroad by corrupt individuals.
The National Bureau of Economic Research, a US-based think-tank, said at least Sh5 trillion is held in offshore accounts by corrupt individuals from Kenya.
Additionally, data from the Swiss National Bank showed Kenyans had hidden a staggering Sh96 billion in Switzerland.
Kenya already has an agreement with Switzerland that enables the Assets Recovery Agency to repatriate money and assets stolen by corrupt individuals and hidden in Switzerland and Jersey Island.
The Office of the Attorney-General is looking to sign similar deals with the UK and the United Arab Emirates.
The two have emerged as popular destinations for corrupt individuals who want to hide their wealth.
In April, UK’s Director of Public Prosecutions Max Hill met Mr Haji and Chief Justice David Maraga in Nairobi.
During the meeting it was revealed that UK has set up an office for the Crown Prosecution Service in Kenya to help in tackling crimes such as corruption.
The Crown Prosecution Service is the principal public agency for conducting criminal prosecutions in England and Wales.
“Corruption is theft from our people and we will work together to fight it. We want to make people safe,” said Mr Hill.
The offices involved in the fight against corruption have received a boost after Treasury allocated them a cumulative Sh19 billion in the budget for the next financial year.
The DPP received Sh3 billion, the DCI got Sh7.9 billion, the Auditor-General’s office got Sh5.7 billion, and the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission Sh2.9 billion.
National Assembly Majority Leader Adan Duale said the huge financial allocations, coupled with the partnerships the investigative agencies were making, will go a long way in dealing with corruption.
“The war on corruption cuts across regions and countries. One of the success stories has been the war on terrorism. Likewise, with enough financing and technical assistance from endowed countries, it won’t take long to fight corruption,” he told the Sunday Nation.