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Anglo Leasing: Efforts on to recover money stashed in Swiss banks

Friday November 15 2019

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Switzerland is working with the Kenyan government to repatriate looted public money stashed in Swiss banks. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

BRIAN NGUGI
By BRIAN NGUGI
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A deal Kenya signed with Switzerland on the repatriation of looted public funds popped up this week, when a top Swiss government official came calling.

Coming amid a renewed push to deepen trade with Kenya, the issue of stolen funds believed to be stashed in Swiss banks cropped up during a visit by the State Secretary for Economic Affairs, Ms Marie-Gabrielle Ineichen-Fleisch.

But as it emerged, everything has to await the conclusion of the Anglo Leasing cases filed in Nairobi.

The Anglo Leasing scandal, which involved dodgy security sector deals, saw the country lose billions of shillings, much of it stashed abroad.

“No funds have been repatriated so far. The money that has been frozen in Switzerland in relation to the Anglo Leasing case is approximately $2 million (Sh204.1 million),” the embassy said in response to an inquiry by the Nation, adding that it can be repatriated only after the Anglo Leasing cases end and a final and executable judgment delivered.

PARTNERSHIPS

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While the issue was not on the agenda of the official trip by Ms Ineichen-Fleisch, it eclipsed her bilateral meeting, given President Uhuru Kenyatta’s renewed war against graft, which has seen him seek assistance from various countries, including the United Kingdom and the United States, to have stolen public money returned.

Switzerland was once a safe haven for stolen cash and by last year, it was estimated that Kenyans held as much as Sh96 billion in Swiss banks.

When Ms Ineichen-Fleisch came to Nairobi, the Swiss embassy said: “One of the main objectives of this economic mission is to explore opportunities for Swiss companies to partner with Kenyan companies and/or make new investments in this country.

“The fact that this type of Swiss delegation (economic) is coming to Kenya for the first time shows the great interest that Switzerland has in partnering with Kenya. This is just the beginning.”

LEGAL ASSISTANCE

Ms Ineichen-Fleisch was accompanied by representatives from 14 firms eyeing deals with local companies. She also met various sector leaders, entrepreneurs and start-ups.

Last year, President Kenyatta and Swiss President Alain Berset signed the ‘Framework for the Return of Assets from Corruption and Crime in Kenya’, which hinted at the repatriation of more stolen assets Kenyans were keeping in Swiss banks.

This would later see more than $2 million, suspected to be the proceeds of corruption in Kenya, frozen in Swiss bank accounts.

Swiss authorities have previously granted legal assistance to Kenya, providing the defunct Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission, the predecessor of the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC), with documents on Swiss links to the Anglo Leasing affair and on the associated funds believed to be in Switzerland.

But even as pressure to get back the Anglo Leasing money continues, the amount of money Kenyans have in Swiss banks rose in 2017.

The total amount was reported to have increased by 4.3 per cent to Swiss francs 950 million in 2017, from the 911.4 million (about Sh92.1 billion) in 2016, according to a Swiss National Bank report.