By Sunday Standard Reporter
Britain reacted sharply to claims by Kenya that it spurned the Kibaki Government’s request to trace assets stolen by officials of the previous Kanu regime and their associates, some stashed in off-shore accounts.
The Foreign Office in London, The Guardian reported, denied such a request had been made and expressed surprise at remarks by Government Spokesman Mr Alfred Mutua that Britain was unwilling to assist Kenya trace an estimated Sh139 billion looted from Kenya by officials of the former regime.
The Guardian had on Friday quoted Mutua as saying London had refused to assist Kenya trace billions of shillings stolen from the public and hidden in foreign accounts or invested abroad.
The Foreign Office said: “That is incorrect. We stand ready to assist Kenya with any asset recovery as we have done successfully with Nigeria. But the Kenyans have not requested assistance.”
London was reacting to reports published by The Guardian based on a leaked 110-page report by risk consultants Kroll and Associates of London after an inquiry into alleged theft of billions of shillings by people close to the previous regime.
According to the Kroll report, these people have various assets abroad, including multi-billion shilling properties in New York, London, South Africa and a 10,000-hectare ranch in Australia. Kroll and Associates was commissioned by President Kibaki in 2003 to investigate former President Moi’s and his associates’ assets abroad as part of the new Government’s war against corruption.
The investigation was meant to be the first step towards recovering some of the money spirited out of the country during Kanu’s long reign, which put Kenya among the world’s most corrupt countries.
According to The Guardian, the Kroll dossier was presented to the Government in 2004 but was not acted upon. Nobody has ever been prosecuted over the money siphoned out of the country nor has any money been recovered.
On Friday, The Guardian speculated that President Kibaki failed to act on the Kroll report because at about the same time he received the report his Government was embroiled in its own Anglo Leasing mega financial scandal.
The damning reports come barely a week after Moi declared his support for President Kibaki’s re-election. This might explain why Mutua took the view that the leaking of the report was political.
That would also suggest that the Government official said to have leaked the document might have been displeased with the thawing of relations between President Kibaki and Moi, who have been politically divorced since 1992.
The Guardian alleged that Kroll’s 110-page report had been leaked by a senior Government official, who is unhappy with the Government’s slow paced war against corruption.
The Kroll report says that anti-corruption officials in 2004 nearly froze an offshore account with some Sh20 billion but their efforts were thwarted when the cash was moved after a tip-off from within Kenya.
In several occasions ministers Martha Karua, Kiraitu Murungi and the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission (KACC) and Constitutional have told Kenyans that some Sh74 billion had been traced but none of this money has ever been returned to Kenya.
Keiyo South MP Mr Nicholas Biwott reacted angrily to the reports that he had looted any money from the public and stashed it in foreign accounts.
In statement Biwott said he could only read political malice and propaganda since the release of the purported report coincided with a decision by retired President Moi to support his successor. He denied any links with some 14 companies that had been allegedly linked to the looting of some Sh130 billion. “I deny that I have stashed money abroad or looted Kenyan taxpayers money. The allegations that I have invested heavily outside Kenya, with commercial interests in Israel and Australia, is equally false. The companies Biwott denied links with are Uhuru Highway Development Real Estate Company, Safaricom Ltd, the 10,000-hectare Ranch in Australia and the Banque Belgolaise.
The others are Team Simoco, Westmont, Grand Dian Reef Hotel and the H Young and Company.
The rest are S R Telecommunications Co LTD, First American Bank, Pan African Bank, Premier Group of Companies and the National Milling Corporation. Biwott said all his investments are established in Kenya and contribute to the country’s economic growth. He said the investments are in public domain and that some have grown and established networks and branches in the region.