Britain leading destination for ‘hiding money’

James Momanyi @jamomanyi

The signing of a deal between Kenya and the UK to repatriate assets stolen in the country and stashed in various tax havens in British territories has opened a new front in the fight against corruption.

President Uhuru Kenyatta and UK Prime Minister Theresa May said the two countries have agreed on a framework on how the proceeds of crime hidden in British territories will be repatriated.

“We have agreed on modalities of bringing back proceeds of crime and stolen assets. This will boost war on corruption that has denied Kenyans important services,” said Uhuru.

There are a number of tax havens under Britain’s jurisdiction. Public officials from Kenya and other countries have designed secret offshore accounts to hide money stolen from the public. Tax havens are favoured by economic criminals because they zealously protect personal financial information. Most have formal legal or administrative practices that prevent scrutiny by foreign tax authorities.

Those under the British authorities, that will now be forced to reveal information about their clients and have the money returned to Kenya, include Anguilla, the British Virgin Islands and the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Others are Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, Guernsey, the Isle of Man and Jersey. This pact comes on the heels of another repatriation agreement signed last month between Kenya and Switzerland to facilitate return of about Sh72 billion stashed in Swiss accounts.

In the last 15 years, Kenya has had a spirited campaign to have money hidden in tax havens returned to the country with little success.

In 2003 the government commissioned the risk consultancy firm Kroll to investigate illicit cash stashed in foreign accounts. Probe findings revealed that more than Sh200 billion at the current exchange rate was stolen and kept in secret Swiss, Britain, Luxembourg and several Caribbean nations’ accounts.

The assets accumulated included multimillion-pound properties in London, New York and South Africa, as well as a 10,000-hectare ranch in Australia and bank accounts containing hundreds of millions of pounds. The other looted funds include more than Sh160 billion from the Goldenberg scandal and Sh112 billion from Anglo Leasing scam.

Last year Switzerland said it has frozen some Sh200 million stashed in the country from the Anglo Leasing scam.

Last year the UK’s anti-corruption agency Serious Fraud Office (SFO) also returned to Kenya some Sh52 million seized from the British printing firm convicted of paying out hefty bribes, codenamed “chicken”, to Kenyan electoral and examination officials.

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