Category Archives: AML

Church Donation Mystery

tuko-church-donation

Screen grab of the Tuko.Co.Ke video

There was this fantastic story on Tuko website about huge donations that were made to a Church on behalf of the President and the Deputy President.

They were each said to have given 34 million shillings in a video shows the Governor of Narok county presenting an envelope with the cash. He also gave 6.8 million of his own, and another 3.4 million from another governor.

The sum of 34 million is incredible. Indeed, it is almost the  same amount as the equally implausible claim of 40 million from NYS that Josephine Kabura says she carried out of a bank hall on more than one occasion.

So what’s more likely?. I though it may have been a donation in Tanzania as Narok county borders Tanzania. But a different story by Citizen TV of the same event notes that the Kenyan contingent donated a sum of 82.6 million shillings in support of the Ugandan Church in Sebei, Kapchorwa District.

If the donations were in Uganda shillings (UGX), not Kenya shillings (KES) then that makes more sense, and tallies with the video clip that shows the size of the cash bundles, and is more realistic in terms of the usual donations that leaders are reported to make. 34 million Uganda shillings is equal to about 1 million Kenya shillings, UGX 6.8 million equals KES 200,000, and  UGX  3.4 million is equal to about KES 100,000.  There’s no clear mention of the currency (whether Kenya shillings or Uganda shillings) in the video and it’s likely that the Governor translated the equivalent in Uganda shillings for the congregation while presenting the Kenya shillings donation to the Church.

$1 = KES 101, $1= UGX 3,500, 1 KES = UGX 34.

Kabura’s Peculiar Banking Habits

Last week Josephine Kabura got to testify about her banking transactions before a televised Parliamentary Accounts Committee (PAC) hearing of an ongoing investigation of the National Youth Service (NYS), and she made some rather startling claims about having tens of millions of shillings from the NYS deposited into her company accounts which she instantly withdrew in cash to pay her suppliers. But in the absence of closed circuit television (CCTV) footage, which banks typically don’t keep for too long (the security companies erase them over if there are no security incidents), the documentation and bank rules covering cash handling risks, fraud, and money-laundering simply don’t support these claims.

While MP’s asked her about the physical improbability and difficulty of her carrying that money out of the bank (sums of Kshs 40 million in paper bags) to go pay suppliers at a quarry, the possibility of this is unlikely. A vault at an obscure bank branch is unlikely to have more than Kshs 10 million shillings sitting around. Banks allocate money to branches based on their usage (average daily deposits and withdrawals) and it is unlikely that such amounts of money in paper currency would ever sit idly around as there are insurance and cash handling costs and risks. 

Kabura testifies at PAC  (pic from Standard)

Kabura testifies at PAC (pic from Standard)

Within the bank, risks managers and systems would have noticed patterns in her company accounts, previously empty, and now suddenly receiving millions of shillings per day, that she immediately withdrew in cash. Also when someone tries to send, transfer, or withdraw over $10,000 i.e. ~Kshs 1 million, it triggers an extra form at the bank that must be filled out and later sent to the Central Bank explaining the purpose of the transaction. Usually, the head office of a bank will ask for extra documentation, such as invoices or contracts to support the processing of such a transaction. A similar case with suspicious payments received from the Youth Enterprise Development Fund at Chase Bank showed how such account activity triggered alarm bells within a bank and subsequently with the regulators.

When Kshs 100 million is wired to your bank, it does not mean that Kshs 100 million magically appears at your bank branch to be withdrawn as cash. At any branch, the tellers and cash managers have limits of cash they can handle or approve at any given time. They have to get approval, or witnesses to do larger transactions and those are in exceptional requests. Bank systems are set up not to allow suspicious transactions that exceed pre-set limits and daily  thresholds.

For more money to be allocated to a bank branch, a top decision would have to be made by bank directors to allocate and transport more money to serve the enhanced needs of customers at a particular branch. But it is more probable that such a customer would be “upgraded” and transferred to another branch for premium customers with better security and with higher cash limits. Such a customer would also be assigned a relationship manager to help them manage their liquidity (in this case – Kshs 1.6 billion in 14 months) even better and cross-sell them other bank products.

It is more probably, as MP Abdikadir Aden, postulated at the PAC hearing, that the cash was never really there. When large sums were wired in, withdrawal transactions were initiated to show that cash was being withdrawn, but that the reality was that, simultaneously, other transfers were done and cash deposit slips were filled in to reflect cash deposits for the exact same amounts, into other accounts, a few minutes later.

Finally, earlier this year, the Central Bank issued new rules that further restricted deposit or withdrawal of cash. Could this have been due to the same Kabura activities that happened over a year before?

Mobilizing Domestic Resources for Africa’s Transformation

This is the theme of the third Africa for Results Forum (AfriK4R) forum that’s taking place in Nairobi from July 13 to 15, and organized by the African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF) and the African Development Bank (AfDB).

The first one was held in  2013 in Harare, and the next  in 2015 in Abidjan. One of the main concerns has been that, with the diminishing official development assistance (ODA)  to Africa, estimated to be 27% in 2014, and down from 38% in 2004., the budget needs of African governments need to be matched by a growth in local resources like taxes, exports and natural resources.

Kenya’s Devolution CS Mwangi Kiunjuri cited some of the resources available to Africa including $520 billion annually from domestic taxes that Africa generates, $168 billion from minerals & fuels,  $400 billion that Africa holds in international reserves, rise in Stock market Capitalization from $200 billion in 1996 to $1.2 trillion in 2007 and $160 billion in sovereign wealth funds (10 African countries have established these)

Challenges of African government face to mobilize domestic resources include: a very narrow tax base and a huge informal sector; high levels of capital flight; tax evasion & avoidance; proliferation of tax exemptions; lack of legitimacy of tax administrations; relatively low penetration of the formal banking sector; and lack of human, technical, legal, regulatory, and financial capacity to deal with illicit financial flows – Thomas Munthali, Director, ACBF.

Munthali, also cited good examples of domestic resource mobilization including the  Central Bank of West African States (BCEAO) reform on e-money; the Uganda border-post anti-smuggling trade measures; the Zambian direct deposit of fees into one government account; Zimbabwe’s tapping on the informal sector by introduction of presumptive tax; and Malawi’s use of Electronic Fiscal Devices in VAT collection.

Kenya Crackdown on Paper Bag Banking

The Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) has sent out new mandatory guidelines to banks to be on the look out for large volumes of cash being transacted over the counter. The notice targets customers who withdraw or deposit cash amounts of Kshs 1 million (~$10,000) or above.

It requires banks to get more information about why their customers are depositing or withdrawing these large sums of cash and query (among other things):

  • Why can’t the cash deposit or withdrawal be made through electronic means? 
  • What is the money going to be used for?
  • Who will be the direct and indirect beneficiaries of the money and provide the identity of the intended beneficiaries of the money.
Illustrative pic from the Star Newspaper to show what a large sum of cash will look like

Illustrative pic from the Star Newspaper to show what a large sum of bank cash may look like

The guidelines are drawn from existing crime and anti-money laundering regulations, and come after other attempts in the past to target money laundering, corruption, terrorism, or crime funds being transferred through mobile phones or remittances / hawala. But it seems, there’s been a realization, probably after investigations into the NYS saga, that cash was moved between banks in paper bags.

Brown envelope

In Kenya, large sums (over Kshs 1 million)  are meant to be transferred through electronic funds transfers (EFT) and real-time gross settlement (RTGS). Indeed cheques over Kshs 1 million are not accepted unless they are in support of amounts being transferred between account  within the same bank.