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US graft war move is good but return loot

Wednesday October 23 2019

EDITORIAL
By EDITORIAL
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The pledge by the American government to help Kenya to fight corruption is quite reassuring. Corruption runs deep and stands out as the major impediment to the country’s growth.

But beyond barring the corrupt from stepping into their territory, the United States and other nations ought to institute concrete measures such as helping Kenya to track down stolen wealth stashed in foreign capitals and repatriate them.

Equally important, they should share information about the corrupt with our investigative authorities for action.

PSYCHOLOGICAL TORTURE

In principle, what the US Ambassador to Kenya Kyle McCarter has undertaken to do is vital. Those who steal from the public should not be allowed to travel and enjoy their ill-gotten wealth abroad. Denying them and their families visas is a step in the right direction.

Other countries should follow suit so that the corrupt are ostracised and humiliated such that, even if they gloat over their loot, they are put through psychological torture.

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The entry of Western nations in fighting corruption is important. A lot of wealth stolen here is kept abroad. Most corrupt individuals have accomplices in foreign capitals. They have offshore companies and bank accounts through which they move illicit cash.

When, for example, the country was hit by Kimwarer and Arror dam scandals a few months ago, where some Sh20 billion had been paid to questionable firms, it transpired that the deals had been cut in faraway Italy.

WEALTHY KENYANS

Last year, American think tank National Bureau of Economic Research reported that wealthy Kenyans had kept some Sh5 trillion abroad, the bulk of it proceeds of corruption. That is nearly double the national budget and, if repatriated, it would boost the economy quite significantly.

Most of those who keep their cash abroad do so because the source may not be legitimate, seek to evade taxes or engage in dubious transborder transactions. Whichever the case, they must be reined in. They are economic criminals who should be punished.

A few countries, such as Britain and Switzerland, have entered into deals with Kenya to identify and seize stolen cash and other assets stashed in their backyards and send them back to Nairobi.

Not so long ago, Britain returned to Kenya cash recovered from Smith & Ouzman, a company implicated in the Chickengate scandal.

If more of such happened, the country would net in tidy sums and find itself in good stead to meet budgetary obligations.

Powerful nations such as the US and other international agencies should join developing countries in fighting corruption.

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