Are the foreign Embassies agents of Graft in Kenya?

By Jimmy Tarus

The government of Kenya has stepped up efforts to fight corruption more seriously than any other time before in the history of our country.

The recent suspensions of senior government officials are a bold statement by the Uhuru Kenyatta administration.

Kenya’s development partners have been keen on advocating for transparency and accountability especially in terms of government’s fiscal policy and expenditure.

It is notable however that one major aspect of some of the grand scandals has more than often been overlooked. Through foreign agents, Kenyans have been made to focus more on local scandals but overlooked multibillion scandals that in most cases are negotiated through respective embassies of various nationals who belong to our development partners mostly considered as donors.

Failure to scrutinize these mega scandals has made majority of Kenyans focus on locals who usually play insignificant roles and enjoy fringe benefits from the scandals instead of focusing on the international corruption syndicates that usually work through their respective embassies. Its ironical that most of the anti corruption crusades carried out by a section Kenya’s local Public Benefits Organizations focusing on Kenya’s micro corruption scandals are majorly sponsored by the same embassies!

Conspiracy of overseas impropriety

Main beneficiaries of most of the mega scandals are foreign nationals who negotiate their businesses through their embassies. The Anglo-Leasing scandal, the bomb detector device, the Goldenberg scandal and most recently the good year scam have had greater benefits to foreigners who are nationals to these development partners than their Kenyan henchmen. Most local schemers in the said scandals play a role a kin to a slave who would pluck an orange in a plantation where he worked. The slave in such a case would be punished by the master who wouldn’t care to imagine that the whole plantation was a collective effort of the slaves and the master only benefited in a wholesome way from the collective sweat of slaves.

Despite the fact that some of the foreign countries have found those involved in some of these corrupt deals guilty and even frozen their assets acquired through corruption on Kenyan soil, none of these countries have taken a step of repatriating the money back to Kenya.

Instead of taking such a step of fighting for repatriation of the proceeds of corruption from abroad, the foreign embassies have continued to sponsor a few Kenyan self styled civil society groups and individuals to keep a lot of focus on local corruption and say nothing about the involvement of foreigners in the scams.

Of greater interest is the fact that in spite of Kenya having thousands of registered Public Benefits Organizations, only a handful of PBOs are given funding by the foreign missions to carry out self opinionated anti corruption projects. This raises the question of some individuals and PBOs spying for foreign interests or governments.

The Anglo Leasing Scam

Free online encyclopedia Wikipedia documents that activist and former permanent secretary a John Githongo’s sophisticated nature of his recordings at the height of Anglo Leasing saga and the reason and extent for the involvement of the British High Commission remain a foremost subject to tremendous conjecture.

Dr Chris Murungaru, who was the minister for internal security at the time the Anglo Leasing saga emerged, holds a position that Githongo was and still is a British spy. On the 10th of February 2006, Kiraitu Murungi issued a statement that was faxed to all Kenyan media houses questioning the intentions and motives of John Githongo, in the form of 36 questions. Minister Murungaru was demoted as a result of Mr. Githongo’s allegations and rejected by his own constituents during the 2007 general election. In 2006, Murungaru was banned from all travel to the United Kingdom by the British Home Secretary as a result of his alleged involvement in corruption.

Allegations and Speculation was also rife that Githongo stayed in Exile in the United Kingdom because he was directly related to the spying allegations and the fact that he broke various secrecy laws under the Official Secrets Act that covered government officials.

While the British government and its High Commissioner to Kenya at the time Sir Edward Clay expressed anger, disenchantment and fury due to what many believed was due to his lack of involvement in the deals, the British government has never expressed worked towards helping Kenya recover the lost billions in the scam. Instead the British government has protected the British swindlers to continue receiving money from Kenyans on the basis of the promissory notes that honor non delivered equipment. It’s so ironical that Githongo and his group pushed for the prosecution of Kenyans involved in the $600M worthy scandal but have never come out to push the British government through their friendship with the Embassy here in Kenya to repatriate our stolen wealth. While Kenya has investigated and charged those involved in the scam, the British government has done very little to help expose their nationals who masterminded the fake deals.

The Goldenberg Scandal

The Goldenberg scandal that was initiated in 1991 wouldn’t have been complete without the involvement of foreign governments. Ketan Somaia; the Architect of the Goldenberg scandal found refuge in the United Kingdom when Kenyan authorities after his jail sentence in Kenya was quashed in 2004.

However large payments associated with the scam were said to have passed through Mr Somaia’s bank Delphis.

Proceeds from the scam were used for foreign currency speculation, which sent the Kenyan shilling into freefall and national inflation soaring.

He was jailed for the alleged scam in 2004, but his conviction was quashed the following year.

Mr Somaia, a businessman and former associate of a close friend of the late UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, the former British Cabinet minister Cecil Parkinson, fled the UK more than a decade ago and has been pursued by creditors on three continents.

While the United Kingdom has protected Somaia from Kenyan authorities since 2004, he was convicted at the Old Bailey of swindling $19.5 million (£11.5million) in June 2014.

Triton Scandal

Triton Scandal fugitive Yagnesh Devani who was tried in absentia in 2014, found refuge in the United Kingdom and to date he is fighting extradition to come and face justice here at home.

Bomb Detectors Scandal

In April 2013, a British businessman who put thousands of lives at risk and fooled police forces, the military and governments around the world into buying fake bomb-detection kits for millions of pounds was found guilty of fraud. James McCormick, 57, sold the useless devices, based on novelty golf-ball finders worth less than £13, for as much as £27,000 each to customers including the Iraqi government, the United Nations, Kenyan police, Hong Kong prison service, the Egyptian army, Thailand’s border control and Saudi Arabia.

The ineffectual detectors were used by the Kenyan police, soldiers and peacekeepers out in the field; putting lives at risk, with McCormick thought to have made an estimated £50 million from sales of his three models.

While McCormick was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment in May 2013, no initiative has been put in place to repatriate the money that Kenya lost back to our country or any other country that was swindled by this British national.

 

Good Year Tyres Scandal

On February 24, 2015, the United States’ Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) issued an Order settling an administrative proceeding that charged Goodyear Tyre & Rubber Company with violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (the “FCPA”). The charges resulted from bribes that Goodyear subsidiaries paid in connection with tire sales in Kenya and Angola.

The scandal came to light after Goodyear Tyre and Rubber Company, which owned Treadsetters Tyres Ltd in Kenya, was ordered by the SEC to pay US$10.7m to the US Treasury after it was found liable for bribing public officials and private company bosses. According to documents from the SEC, the bribes paid by Goodyear amounted to more than US$1.5m in Kenya, while another US$1.6m was paid in exchange for contracts in Angola.

The report implicated unnamed employees from EAPCC, Telkom Kenya, Armed Forces Canteen Organisation, Kenya Ports Authority, Nzoia Sugar Company, the Kenya Air Force, Ministry of Roads and Ministry of State for Defence.

It’s surprising that while the US Treasury has benefited from the Goodyear penalties, the American government has made no effort for Kenya to recover the monies lost during this scandal. It’s no longer a matter of interest to the Anglo-American sponsored civil society. It remains debatable whether the US Embassy in Kenya played a role in sealing these corrupt deals.

It’s important for Kenyans to change focus, re-think, ask questions and demand answers on the extent of the involvement of foreign missions in Kenyan scams.

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