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Patronage should not scuttle fake gold probe

Friday May 24 2019

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The political opportunism surrounding the duping of United Arab Emirates merchants into buying fake gold by Kenyans has obfuscated deeper concerns that should be at the heart of the discourse. The UAE merchants and their Kenyan consorts are not giving the full picture of what transpired and detectives may never unravel the extent of the treachery since the parties in such transactions hesitate to bare all at some point, realising that absolute transparency could bring the evil empire tumbling.

Secondly, such transactions ordinarily fall under the purview of civil litigation as there is little justification to warrant spending public resources on helping private parties who should have known better to enforce a contract. While not much can be done beyond planting moles and whistle-blowers on parties holding back information, as in the recent Kenya Revenue Authority corruption case, more needs to be done to bring criminals who mislead Kenyans and foreigners alike into ghost investments.

The fake gold saga, which captured intense interest globally once it was imputed a UAE royal and top Kenya political players were caught up in the muddle, is the latest in a long line of deceptions that undermine our claim to being a centre of doing honest business. From pyramid schemes crafted by influential politicians to sale of inexistent properties, including by religious leaders, no less, gullible Kenyans have been the sitting ducks of all manner of fraudsters. These con men have graduated into international crime with Kenya a hotspot for illicit trade — people, minerals, drugs, animal trophies, arms and goods in transit.

According to the Central Intelligence Agency, Kenya is a transit country for heroin from South Asia destined for Europe and North America, Indian sedative methaqualone en route to South Africa and other narcotics-associated activities. Locally, massive corruption and money laundering help the traffickers to pass through borders that should otherwise be more impervious and, as the Akashas’ guilty pleas in the US showed, to circumvent impounding at Customs and judicial sanctions.

A gangster’s paradise. This disrepute is no good for a country that aspires to be the top financial hub and investment destination in Africa. Where the political elite secure rogue traders, their shadowy fronts, smooth passage and protection from the law, enforcement agencies may never scratch below the surface without a discernible upturn in political will.

President Kenyatta should provide leadership in ensuring political patronage does not lull public institutions into inaction where transnational crimes are involved.