Kenya has to rethink strategies of recovering stolen money stashed in foreign accounts. This is the sobering message from the visiting Swiss Economic Affairs Secretary Marie-Gabrielle Ineichen-Fleisch, who last week declared that her government cannot repatriate money held in frozen accounts because of legal technicalities. Most of the money is proceeds of corruption, whose related cases are locked in the courts, such as the Anglo Leasing scandal. Since the matter is in court, the money cannot be released to the government. That is quite unfortunate.
Switzerland has frozen an estimated Sh204 million in relation to Anglo Leasing alone. Cumulatively, it is estimated that Kenyans hold as much as Sh96 billion in Swiss accounts, a method preferred by racketeers because of the safety of its banking system.
But for Kenya, the latest revelation is a clincher. It turns the spotlight on the local courts, which must acquit themselves properly on how they handle corruption cases. Several graft suits are tied in courts because of slow judicial processes. Masterminds of the scandals are aware they can use the courts to hold everyone to ransom. Consequently, they use all tricks in the book to prolong the hearings, always seeking adjournments for spurious reasons, but just to delay the judgment. Unfortunately, judicial officers play ball, either deliberately or inadvertently.
Just last week, the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission lost an appeal in one of the several cases linked to the infamous Goldenberg scandal — in what is becoming a pattern, where the government cannot put the ball past the goalposts.
The government requires a change of strategy. It must put up a strong fight in court to win and end the suits. If the trend continues, then all will be lost. Consider, for example, that Anglo Leasing cases are about 15 years and others, like the Goldenberg ones, date back to the early 1990s, hence in their third decade. The money stolen from those rackets is stashed in foreign banks and, if the precedent is that they cannot be released to Kenya until the suits are concluded, then the country is in for a shock.
But this does not mean that the government should sit pretty and allow itself to be swayed away from its objective of recovering the looted cash. There must be other options it can pursue. When it signed a deal with Geneva and other governments like British and American, the understanding was that the countries would use their goodwill to help Kenya to get back the stolen cash.
There sure must be a diplomatic window that the government can use to get back the looted public resources. It must find other effective ways to bring back all the stolen cash.