Kenya to receive millions in seized funds to help fight COVID-19

Millions of dollars of public funds allegedly stolen by two of Kenya’s richest men are being returned to the country to buy life-saving coronavirus (COVID-19) equipment following a landmark agreement.

The deal with Jersey, a self-governing island in the English Channel, has been hailed as “a victory for the people of Kenya” by its High Commissioner in the United Kingdom, Manoah Esipisu.

The entangled web of connections that eventually ended in this deal first emerged following a divorce case.

Back in 2006, Samuel Gichuru, the wealthy boss of Kenya’s power company, and his wife Salome Njeri were divorced.

When it came to splitting up their assets, Njeri felt she was not getting her fair share.

She alleged some of her husband’s assets were being hidden from the proceedings and, in court, listed details of accounts she said belonged to Gichuru in Jersey, which is often associated with secretive offshore banking and a low-tax environment.

That sparked a nine-year investigation by the Jersey authorities across 12 jurisdictions.

As part of that investigation, in 2011, they accused Gichuru and former Finance Minister Chris Okemo of taking kickbacks from multinationals which were sent to a Jersey-registered company.

The Jersey authorities issued arrest warrants for both men and have been waiting for their extradition from Kenya ever since.

The economic crimes they were accused of included a deal with a Finnish firm to construct a power station near Mombasa, Kenya’s second largest city, and taking millions of pounds in kickbacks from British, Norwegian and German engineering firms, as well as a US communications giant.

Despite repeated attempts to contact them by the BBC, both men and their lawyers would not comment on the allegations levelled against them.

However in 2016, the Jersey-registered company Windward Trading Limited pleaded guilty to four counts of money laundering in a Jersey court.

The court ruled that the company, whose ultimate owner was Mr Gichuru, should be stripped of more than $4.9m (£3.6m) in assets for money laundering.

It is the majority of this money that allegedly came from corrupt activities in Kenya between 1999 and 2002 that is now being returned to the country.


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