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February 20, 2019

Fraud safer bet than gun to rob bank

Barclays bank, westlands branch. Photo/Monicah Mwangi
Barclays bank, westlands branch. Photo/Monicah Mwangi

Three suspected thugs were shot near the Westlands roundabout inbound to the CBD after reportedly trying to rob the Barclays Bank Westlands Branch.

Waiyaki Way inbound was temporarily closed as the bodies of the two lay motionless on the tarmac.

Clearly, if the reports turn out to be true, then the two would be the most ill-informed crooks operating in Kenya today.

This is because people no longer rob banks with guns.

They rob them through fraud, Chase Bank style.

Or Imperial Bank style.

These are cases where insiders have contrived to design means to enrich themselves by siphoning out depositors’ funds and covering up the same with clever bookkeeping.

Chase Bank which went down last week continued to suffer ignominy this week when a corporate bond it issued last year on the Nairobi Securities Exchange was halted from trading.

More information emerged about how the directors of the bank had cleverly allocated themselves billions under their Islamic Banking department which they failed to recognise as loans on the balance sheet.

You see, under Sharia lending, the bank does not charge you interest on a loan but rather participates with you in the venture which you wish to fund with it, and then you split the profits.

Management at Chase however wanted the billions allocated thus to be booked under the nebulous term, “other assets and interest receivable”.

It was only after a senior Deloitte auditor insisted that the funds be recognised as loans that the bank was now forced to restate its accounts which saw it plunge into loss territory.

Insiders say this money has largely gone to fund real estate complexes in and around Nairobi.

Central Bank of Kenya governor Patrick Njoroge said in a media briefing yesterday that the process to recover these assets and return them to Chase Bank was underway.

The suspected culprits of this heist from the bank recorded statements at the CID offices before retreating to their residences.

No such luck for the three thugs who were felled immediately they signalled their intention.

This points to how the rule of law in this country tends to break down. For the weak and down trodden the law is a leaden weight on their backs while for those well off, it is a theory not practice.

Which is why, CBK governor Njoroge needs to demonstrate action.

The move to recover assets belonging to Chase is a good start.

Next, he must tell us how oversight of banking reporting standards will be tightened to monitor fraud and provide accurate figures to the public.

He must turn to his own house where several senior officers have served in bank supervision and clean it recruiting fresh blood that will take seriously the task of oversight of banks holding people’s deposits.

He must also put in place, measures to prevent another bank from collapsing. Right now, small banks are unlikely to get credit on the interbank market. The governor needs to find a way to keep these institutions liquid until the big tier banks can begin lending to them again.

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