Sunday, April 12, 2009

Kenya: Anglo Leasing loot now frozen

By OLIVER MATHENGE - Nation [Kenya] April 7 2009 

Swiss authorities are said to have frozen bank accounts in Geneva in the ongoing investigations into the multi-billion shilling Anglo Leasing scandal.

A Zurich newspaper, The Neue Zurcher Zeitung, reported on Tuesday that up to Sh12 billion of the Anglo Leasing loot had been stashed in bank accounts in Geneva. The newspaper reported that Swiss authorities had frozen accounts in several banks including Schroder Bank, HSBC Private Bank and UBS.

Kenyan authorities have requested international investigative bodies and Western countries for legal assistance in cracking the Sh56 billion scandal.

The government is seeking to establish who had opened the Swiss accounts for the Anglo Leasing companies and who are the beneficiaries of the transfers.

According to the Zurich newspaper, the Federal Prosecutor’s Office has taken up investigations and, other than freezing the accounts, it has seized documents that may be linked to the scandal.

It, however, cautioned that proof that the Kenyan funds originated from crimes would not be easy since no one had been validly linked to the Anglo Leasing affair in Nairobi.

The report further indicated that the Anglo Leasing network stretched as far as British Virgin Islands and Guernsey despite most of the addresses of the said companies being in Geneva. Swiss laws allow accounting firms to open accounts on behalf of foreign customers even if they do not have local trustees in Switzerland.

The Zurich newspaper reported that of the six Anglo Leasing companies with Swiss banking relationships, five were registered in Virgin Islands.

The paper indicated that some of the accounts frozen may belong to Midland Finance and Securities Ltd, which obtained 36 irrevocable and negotiable promissory notes worth 49.6 million euros (Sh50 billion) from the government on May 29, 2003, for a sham loan of a similar amount which Kenya never received.

The Anglo Leasing scandal is alleged to have started when the Kenyan Government wanted to replace its passport printing system in 2002.

The tender was originally quoted at Sh588 million from a French firm, but was awarded to a British firm, Anglo Leasing Finance, at Sh2.9 billion. The firm would have sub-contracted the same French firm to do the work.

Last week, Attorney-General Amos Wako wrote to the US Government seeking information on the arrest of a man said to be willing to shed more on the scandal.

In the letter to US ambassador Michael Ranneberger, Mr Wako said that if it was true that Mr Bradley Birkenfeld was under arrest, Kenya would be happy to interrogate him and get more information on the scandal.

In the past, Serious Fraud Office of the UK said it had ceased investigations into the scandal after Kenya proved uncooperative.