Category Archives: corruption

Kenya unveils new currency banknotes with a demonetization shock

The President of Kenya unveiled new generation currency notes at the 2019 Madaraka Day Celebrations in Narok on June 1.

This was after a speech by the Governor of the Central Bank and comes after a case last year cleared the way for bank notes to be printed and also a few months after new coins had been unveiled. The Governor mentioned that there had been extensive public participation in the process which led to the themes of green energy, agriculture, social services, tourism and governance (an image of Parliament!) on the new notes.

The Governor also mentioned that Central Bank had observed that the Kshs 1,000 note (equivalent to about $10) was being used to illicit financial flows and is being counterfeited. They had therefore moved to withdraw the old Kshs 1,000 notes by October 1, 2019, after which they will no longer be legal to use.

Going by the recent wave of a government moves in Kenya, we can probably expect a few challenges to the decision in the Courts and Parliament that will delay the new notes rollout over issues like:

  • The image of a statue of the First President of Kenya remains prominent on every new note.
  • On the demonetization of old 1,000 shilling notes, Parliament’s Committee on Delegated Legislation will say that it should have approval over such a radical move.

EDIT  On Tuesday, June 3, the Governor of the CBK held a press conference where he announced modalities for the transition to the new currency which is already being issued to commercial banks:

  • Persons exchanging currency notes for amounts not exceeding Ksh.1 million of the withdrawn currency notes will exchange at their Commercial banks, CBK Branches and Currency Centres, or any nearest commercial bank. 
  • Bank customers exchanging currency notes for amounts Ksh.1 million to Ksh.5 million of the withdrawn currency notes will exchange at their respective commercial banks, under the normal procedures and requirements. 
  • Persons without bank accounts exchanging currency notes for amounts exceeding Ksh.1 million will require an endorsement from CBK. 
  • Persons exchanging currency notes for amounts exceeding Ksh.5 million (bulk exchange) will require an endorsement from CBK.

Case Digest – Kenyan Capital Markets Court Cases

Kenya’s Capital Markets Authority (CMA), has published a digest of legal cases that Authority has been involved in, and some of which were later appealed.

The 27 cases cover ten years, and most the largest share involve dealings at  Uchumi and others revolve around executives and directors of CMC, commercial banks, and a handful on rogue stockbrokers who preyed on retail investors during the heyday of the Nairobi Stock Exchange during the IPO listings of Kengen and Safaricom.

Some notable cases include, Solomon Alubala who was fined Ksh 104.8 million and barred from holding a position at a listed firm for ten years, Bernard Mwangi who attended Uchumi board meetings and sold shares while the company was performing poorly, CMA cases versus Jeremiah Kiereini and  Martin Foster, Chairman and CEO of CMC Motors, the CMA versus the Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Kenya (ICPAK) over audits done by its members at CMC, cases involving Chadwick Okumu, CFO of Uchumi, and CMA versus Jonathan Ciano, a CEO who was for a time celebrated for turning round the Uchumi. They also have a case of Alnashir Popat and Imperial Bank directors, and Munir Ahmed MD of National Bank who the CMA fined Kshs 5 million and barred from holding a position at a listed company for three years.

The cases are published in partnership with the National Council for Law Reporting who have an online database of over 124,000 court cases.

Financial Sanctions for South Sudan? Part II – The Profiteers

The Profiteers is a documentary by Africa Uncensored that was unveiled in Kenya this week. It was to air on television but was cancelled a few hours before airing on Kenya Television Network (KTN) a local TV channel. The producers confirmed the network’s abrupt decision to pull the broadcast, and then went ahead to release the feature on their own, on Youtube in three parts, and with links and commentary on Twitter.

The Profiteers production by Africa Uncensored follows other work by The Sentry Group and are featured in the latest Sentry report on the situation in South Sudan. Sentry continues to run a watch on events in South Sudan, corruption, the growing refugee population, and complicity of foreign organizations such as banks in Kenya and security forces in Uganda.

The Profiteers investigative team led by John-Allan Namu extensively document, both with straight and under-cover reporting, stories of South Sudan leaders luxuriating in other countries and cutting deals for weapons, logistics, security and valuable wood as they purchase luxury houses and real estate properties in Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia and Australia, flashy cars and are flush with cash which is the basis of their profligate lives and which does not match their official modest salaries. They are able to freely travel and operate bank accounts and transact vast sums through them, even though some of them face international sanctions.

The Profiteers and The Sentry mention several institutions including banks like KCB, Stanbic and Equity bank, and money transfer services such as Dahabshil, and Amal. Some activities look questionable but are understandable such as the decision by the Bank of South Sudan to hold the bulk of its reserves outside the unstable country while soldier battle.

Sentry Recommendations
  • Kenya and Uganda should strengthen regulatory bodies to track money and enforce sanctions.. compliance departments in Kenyan and Ugandan banks should not wait for financial regulators to request information and should immediately find and flag high-value transactions, all real estate transactions, and the accounts of South Sudanese politically-exposed persons (PEPs)
  • Law Enforcement Should Investigate South Sudanese property without political interference
  • Trade Associations should improve standards for investments
  • Businesspeople should share investment information.
Also mentioned in the Sentry report is a wave of posts by Kenyan bloggers: In mid-2018, a group of Kenyan bloggers garnered significant attention when posting photos on Twitter of luxurious homes owned by South Sudanese elites or images of top officials’ family members living extravagant lifestyles in Kenya and Uganda. Referencing the impunity apparently enjoyed by these well-connected South Sudanese, the bloggers labelled their tweets with the hashtag #SouthSudanUntouchables. The same day that hashtag went viral, a high-level U.S. government official spent the day in Kenya, addressing government agencies, financial institutions, and civil society to deliver a related message: that South Sudanese officials should no longer enjoy impunity and that their ill-gotten gains should not be welcome in Kenya and Uganda.

Naming banks is a sideshow to NYS

This week saw the naming of Kenyan banks alleged to have received funds from the National Youth Service in an unfortunate sleigh of hand as suspects were also charged in courts over fraud and abuse of office at the NYS.

The list of banks includes virtually all the top banks in Kenya – KCB, Equity, Cooperative, Barclays, CFC-Stanbic, Diamond Trust, National and smaller ones such as Consolidated and SACCO’s such as Unaitas. These are all institutions that offer supplier financing/ LPO financing – a popular product sought by young entrepreneurs and companies that allows them to obtain financing to procure and supply goods, under contract, that are then paid for by reputable companies and government agencies, such as the NYS, directly to the banks to recover the amounts advanced.

At this stage it is not clear the depth of the suppliers’ relationship with the institutions, as the banks have all cited customer confidentiality and compliance with the law, but it is doubtful if any will have the peculiar banking arrangements seem in the earlier NYS scandal which resulted in fines and sanctions by the Central Bank and charges filed against senior staff of Family Bank.

The article states that banks had filed statutory reports with the Financial Reporting Centre (FRC) a government institution created with the principal objective being to assist in the identification of the proceeds of crime and the combating of money laundering. The problems are clearly NYS ones, not ones and if any contracts were fraudulent, the fraud is with NYS, not the banks.

Kenya’s CBK risk safeguards against bank laundering and terror financing

The Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) has published new guidelines to assist Kenyan banks to assess and mitigate the risk that their institutions and systems may be used for money laundering (ML) or terrorism financing (TF).
They risk rules stipulate, among other proposals that:
  • Senior management of banks are to implement board-approved money laundering/terror financing policies.
  • Bank staff are to prepare periodic reports on money laundering and terrorism finance for their senior management and boards of the bank and also communicate these to the CBK. 
  • Financial institutions will be required to appoint a money laundering reporting officer who will be the point of contact for CBK.
  • Banks should assess and rank TF and ML instances and actions in terms of high, moderate, and low risk. 
  • They should identify countries and regions that are high risk for business; high-risk includes countries subject to sanctions from the UN and other credible organizations, countries that don’t have appropriate banking safeguards and countries known to sponsor terrorism.
  • Banks are to assess their customers for money laundering and terror financing risks; suspicious customer activities include frequent and unexplained movements of money to other accounts, or other institutions, and to far locations. They should also look at politically exposed persons who bank with them including prominent public figures, senior politicians, judicial officers, corporate CEO’s who dealing with them, or their families, may bring a reputational risk to the bank.
  • Banks are to assess their service delivery channels for money laundering risks. They are to pay attention to cash-intensive businesses, including supermarkets, convenience stores, restaurants, retail stores, liquor stores, wholesale distributors, car dealers. 
The guidelines follow an earlier directive on paper bag banking from two years ago. The new ML and TF rules are in draft form and bankers and any interested persons are invited to send comments to the CBK on the proposals before January 31, 2018.