Report reveals scale of corruption in Kenya

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The Independent Online

The scale of corruption carried out in Kenya by family and associates of its former president, Daniel Arap Moi, has been revealed in a secret report which alleges that more than £1 billion of government money was stolen during his 24-year rule.

Mr Moi’s regime, which came to an end in 2002, has long been regarded as one of Africa’s most corrupt, but the extent of the graft has never been exposed in so much detail. The 110-page report by international risk consultants Kroll details assets still allegedly owned by the Moi family and their entourage in 28 countries, including hotels and residences in South Africa and the United States, a 10,000-hectare ranch in Australia, three hotels in London, a £4 million house in Surrey, and a £2 million penthouse flat in Knightsbridge.

The report, delivered to the Kenyan government in April 2004, alleges a level of corruption that would place ex-President Moi’s regime on a par with the kleptocratic rule of Zaire’s Mobutu Sese Seko, Sami Abacha of Nigera and Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines.

It claims the Moi family laundered $400 million through a complex web of accounts in Kenya, Geneva and Frankfurt. It also alleged that they and a handful of associates own a bank in Belgium that was used to launder money from Kenya and uncovered a web of secret bank accounts, shell companies and dummy trusts registered in tax havens, including the Cayman Islands. Moi’s sons, Philip and Gideon, were reported to be worth £384m and £550m respectively.

Kroll was commissioned to investigate claims of corruption carried out by Mr Moi’s regime by his successor, Mwai Kibaki, who campaigned on an anti-corruption platform and promised to end corruption in Kenya “as a way of life”.

But the new government never published the report or acted on its findings. And within two years of coming to power President Kibaki’s government was engulfed in its own corruption scandal. John Githongo, the new government’s anti-corruption tsar uncovered multi-million pound government contracts that had been awarded to phantom companies. After President Kibaki refused to take action, Githongo faced death threats and was forced to flee.

The loss of hundreds of millions of pounds from state funds has had a devastating effect on a country where the majority of people still live on less than $1 a day. The corruption charges, and the government’s failure to investigate them, led the then British ambassador, Sir Edward Clay, to accuse the Kenyan government of “vomiting on donors’ shoes”. Three of the four government ministers who were forced to resign have since returned to the cabinet.

President Kibaki and his predecessor have become close political allies since Mr Kibaki defeated Mr Moi’s preferred candidate, Uhuru Kenyatta, in 2002. Mr Kibaki had served under Mr Moi as vice-president and finance minister. Mr Moi this week declared his backing for his successor in the country’s December presidential elections.

Political analysts in Nairobi say both men benefit from the deal – President Kibaki gets the support of many in Kenya’s Rift Valley region who still revere Mr Moi, while the former president ensures he will not face corruption charges if Mr Kibaki wins.

The government spokesman, Alfred Mutua, yesterday claimed the Kroll report was “not credible” and based on hearsay. He added that the government had subsequently decided not to ask Kroll to complete their investigation. Kroll confirmed they had been commissioned by the Kenyan government but refused to confirm or deny the authenticity of the report.

Mt Mutua also said that Kenya had asked the British government to recover the stolen funds but they had so far refused. A spokesperson for the UK foreign office said: “We are very surprised by Mr Mutua’s suggestion that the UK has refuse to repatriate assets. This is incorrect. It is well known that the British government stands ready to assist the Kenyan government in asset retrieval, as we have done successfully in Nigeria. But the Kenyan authorities have not requested our assistance despite our offer.”

Maini Kiai, chairman of the Kenya National Commission for Human Rights said it was clear that “large amounts of money were sent out of the country” during Moi’s regime.

“Moi-ism was simply grab, grab, grab, grab and don’t care about anyone else,” he said. “The question now is, has this government continued the same approach? Clearly this government lost its commitment to fighting corruption a while ago. This seems like the continuation of Moi-ism and it is a great disappointment.”