In May last year, the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) secured asset freezing orders from Migori governor Okoth Obado and members of his family as part of a investigating allegations of corruption.
In the pending case, the EACC accuses Mr. Obado of using his children and a network of proxy companies to fraudulently acquire 73 million shillings of public funds between 2013 and 2017.
Assets, including two Toyota Land Cruiser vehicles and a high-end residence in Loresho, were frozen for six months to give the prosecution time to build its case.
The governor and his children are said to have provided goods and services to the county government through various companies.
“The money was then spent on school fees for the children, two high-end vehicles and a residential property located in Loresho Ridge Nairobi,” the EACC said in a statement last year setting out the charges.
However, the case concerns Sh1.9 billion of public funds allegedly acquired from Migori County through corrupt means during Obado’s surveillance.
The embezzlement was reportedly committed with the help of attorney companies and associates, and it will be difficult for the authorities to recover the money.
Earlier this year, the African Development Bank blacklisted Mactebac Contractors and its director, Joram Opala, for three years for fraud in a billion shillings construction project.
Mr. Opala is one of Obado’s collaborators and has been indicted alongside the governor and 12 others by the EACC.
The case against the governor of Migori is one of many recent high-profile investigations that have highlighted the effectiveness of the Kenyan authorities in investigating and prosecuting financial crimes.
A new bill in parliament now seeks to give the government more powers to investigate those suspected of money laundering, electronically monitor them and seize their assets before they even go to trial.
The Proceeds of Crime and Anti-Money Laundering (Amendment) Bill 2021 further proposes to suspend the right to privacy under Article 31 of the Constitution for persons suspected of having broken the law.
“When a person is suspected or accused of a violation of this law, his home or his property may be searched, his property seized, information relating to his financial, family or private affairs may be revealed or the confidentiality of communications. a person can be investigated or hindered in some other way, ”says the bill.
“A limitation of a right under subsection (1) applies only for the purposes of the prevention, detection, investigation and prosecution of the proceeds of crime, money laundering and financing of terrorism ”.
Amendments proposed by Majority Leader Amos Kimunya will give more powers to investigating authorities such as the Directorate of Criminal Investigations and the EACC with powers to prosecute persons suspected of money laundering in the early stages of investigations .
Currently, casinos, real estate agencies, companies dealing in precious stones or metals, accountants and non-governmental organizations are listed as reporting institutions.
Reporting institutions are required to continuously monitor complex, unusual, suspicious or significant transactions and pay attention to unusual trends, which should be reported to the Financial Information Center.
Accountants, for example, are required to notify authorities when suspected proceeds of crime and money laundering are used in transactions involving the creation of new companies or in mergers and acquisitions.
The 2021 anti-money laundering and money laundering bill now extends the same reporting obligations to lawyers, notaries and other independent legal professionals practicing alone.
This creates a new layer of compliance for lawyers who are often involved in drafting deeds for companies and trusts often used by people to hide their ill-gotten wealth.
If passed, the new law will further establish a supervisory board chaired by the Attorney General who will oversee and advise the Asset Recovery Agency (ARA) in its functions.
Board members will include the Principal Secretary of the Ministry of Finance, the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Director General of the National Intelligence Service and the Director of the Criminal Investigations Directorate.
The Supervisory Board will also be mandated to lead the ARA on asset recovery, approve its annual budget, annual reports and expenditures.
The law gives the Financial Reporting Center the power to stop transactions reported to authorities such as the Kenya Competition Authority and the Capital Markets Authority if the transactions are suspected of being tainted with laundered money.
“The center may, for the purposes of achieving the objectives of the Act, order in writing the institution or the reporting person not to proceed with the operation or the operation envisaged or any other operation at the with regard to the funds or property affected by this operation or proposed transaction for a period not exceeding five working days ”, specify the proposed amendments.
The five-day moratorium should allow the center to carry out the necessary investigations into the transaction and, where appropriate, to inform and advise investigative, regulatory or tax authorities.
If approved by Parliament, the changes will be the most significant changes to the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Anti-Money Laundering Act, 2009.
The latest EACC report says the government recovered 12.1 billion shillings in public assets and confiscated an additional 9.3 billion shillings believed to be proceeds of crime and money laundering during the 2019-2020 fiscal year.
“Eighty-eight illegally acquired public property valued at 25.3 billion shillings has been recovered and the recovery process is ongoing,” the EACC said in the report.
“In addition, 31 proactive secret investigations were carried out, preventing a possible loss of public funds estimated at 10 billion shillings.”