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Will multi-agency team recover looted billions?

Musa Radoli @PeopleDailyKe

Government agencies led by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) and Assets Recovery Agency have recovered part of the assets acquired by individuals through corrupt deals worth more than Sh3 billion out of an estimated more than Sh57.1 billion.

The assets recovered over the last five years, however, leaves the question of where the balance of Sh52.1 billion is and how long the agencies will take in recovering it. Other critical questions are whether these agencies will be able to recover all the assets worth billions of shillings still held by the corrupt individuals and cartels.

How long will it take them to execute this and how will whatever is recovered be put to use? How much of it is already invested in real estate? Where, of what value and how will they be re-possessed and disposed of? How will the proceeds be used?

Detectives are currently casting a wider net to catch perpetrators in the Sh9 billion scandal that has rocked the National Youth Service (NYS) with a number of individuals including senior NYS officials and Youth and Gender Principal Secretary Lilian Mbogo- Omollo appearing in court.

Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission chief executive Halakhe Waqo confirmed that the commission and other government agencies were facing enormous challenges in tracing and recovering corruptly acquired assets, but has no answers to the above queries.

EACC, Assets Recovery Agency, Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Directorate of Criminal Investigations, Anti Banking Fraud Unit are some of the agencies focused on not only fighting corruption but also recovering the assets acquired by corrupt individuals.

Waqo said that last year alone the commission recovered assets valued at Sh256 million and expressed confidence that by the end of this year it would have recovered more.

“We know that corrupt individuals and their cartels fight back viciously, but we are ready for that war. This year we must recover even more than we have done previously,” he said.

The CEO conceded that comparatively the amount of assets annually recovered from those involved in corruption to that stolen over the same time frame is much lower because the monies lost annually ran into tens of billions of shillings.

He said tracing and recovering assets accruing from corrupt deals was not an easy process because the personalities and cartels involved went through very complex and complicated processes to cover up their ill-gotten properties to the extent of being vicious about it.

The EACC boss says cash is usually banked in secret offshore bank accounts, under falsified names and companies, properties bought and maintained in third parties’ names, secret vaults and safe deposit boxes stored away in banks under confidential cover among many other complex ruses.

He gave the example of a straight recovery case of Sh577 million from the controversial Smith and Ouzman Company that was accused of bribing the Kenya National Examinations Council (KNEC) and the Independent Electoral Commission (IIEC) in corrupt tendering deals as part of the ongoing efforts.

It has since emerged that the cash will be used to construct new health centres and rehabilitate some that already exist and in the construction of electric power systems that are off the national grid – especially in the counties located in arid and semi arid areas of the country.

The EACC says one of the ways through which the corrupt personalities and their cartels fight back is through vicious endless legal battles to protect their proceeds.

“It can even get worse than that at the cost of the lives of those threatening them and their assets. They can hire gunmen whose trade is to kill to execute those threatening them because they have the money,” a senior EACC investigator who requested not to be named said.

He said many of the cases the EACC had taken to court had taken long to be determined because of persistent adjournments engineered by lawyers representing corruption suspects, while some of his colleagues have been shot dead in line of duty but declined to give specifics.

Speaking on phone, Assets Recovery Agency director Muthoni Kimani  said at the moment the agency is happy that it will have more work since close collaboration with EACC and DPP’s office is achieving increasingly high conviction rates of those involved in corruption.

She echoed Waqo’s confirmation that EACC had finalised more than 32 cases  of inquiries into tracing assets as proceeds that accrued from corruption  that include cash, government houses and public land.

“Our mandate is to work closely with EACC, DPP,  Judiciary, the Directorate of Criminal Investigation and other government agencies to ensure that what was stolen will be taken back and those involved jailed,” she said.

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