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Put an end to perpetrators benefiting from proceeds of corruption

In Summary

• It's a tactic very often used by perpetrators of corruption. Using their position, culprits will generate a hive of cronies and family members through whom they can transfer funds using companies, purchasing assets and burying evidence.

•The assets, funds and subsequent wealth acquired illegally is then utilized for personal needs allowing for the beneficiaries of corruption, including one’s own wife and children to enjoy a wealthy and undeserving lifestyle.

A file photo of EACC headquarters in Nairobi.
A file photo of EACC headquarters in Nairobi.
Image: FILE

EACC had a triumph on 21st May at the anti-corruption court, when Governor Okoth Obado, his brother and his daughter were barred from dealing with or disposing of a Sh34 million house in Loresho, Nairobi. Justice Mumbi Ngugi in her ruling ordered Mr Obado, Everlyne Odhiambo and Peter Kwaga not to sell, transfer or deal with the property on LR NO 21080/38 for six months. Governor Obado is accused of siphoning 2.5 billion shillings through various firms in a scandal involving road contracts.

In its case against Governor Obado, The EACC narrowed down to 23 companies it believes Mr Obado used to win several tenders between 2013 and 2019, tracing Sh2.3 billion to the suspected conduits. EACC investigators have so far unearthed 32 companies, 77 pieces of land and other assets.

It's a tactic very often used by perpetrators of corruption. Using their position, culprits will generate a hive of cronies and family members through whom they can transfer funds using companies, purchasing assets and burying evidence. The assets, funds and subsequent wealth acquired illegally is then utilized for personal needs allowing for the beneficiaries of corruption, including one’s own wife and children to enjoy a wealthy and undeserving lifestyle.

This ruling is crucial in this regard, that while the corruption case against the accused is ongoing in the anti-corruption court, any asset that the accused used illicit funds to acquire should no longer be left at their disposal to enjoy and profit from.

Much like a bank robber, once caught, should not have access to the money they have stolen, to use to defend themselves and also to further profit from.

The significance is two fold; firstly that the EACC was able to track the flows of funds in accounts of family members of the Governor, and prove that the money there was used to buy assets and that the asset in question is direct proceeds of corruption. Secondly, the EACC was able to convince the court that the rent from the house in question was also a profit and proceeds of corruption.

What makes corruption seem insurmountable in Kenya is the fact that people who are known to have profited from graft seem to continue to enjoy their illegally acquired wealth despite being prosecuted; it disheartens the public, and it makes justice seem not only unattainable but also crime looks quite enjoyable.

The fact that a person can continue to not only access embezzled  funds but buy, rent or sell property cements the normalization of corruption in the psyche of the public. The idea that not only is corruption common, when it is your turn in office you must also be corrupt and steal public funds in order to also enjoy an undeserved wealthy lifestyle.

Being in court has up until this point, proven that getting prosecuted makes not a dent in the pockets of the corruptly wealthy, and therefore is not a deterrent of any sort. The lack of immediate financial consequence from prosecution has a numbing effect on the population. People’s consciences are utterly seared to the immorality behind being a thief. In fact, more commonly, you will find that because the petty thief or pickpocket will see harsher and more immediate punishment, people begin to believe that should one choose to steal, they should steal large sums, making corruption almost admirable.

Wins in cases of graft where sums are recovered like in the case of Stanley Amuti where unexplained wealth was forfeited, or in this case where Governor Obado’s family has been prevented from benefiting from a house purchased with embezzled funds will go a long way to closing the gaps and loopholes used by perpetrators so that they can no longer enjoy the money.

To make corruption as unpalatable as possible, EACC should be further empowered to not only freeze assets but attach any incomes generated from illegally acquired wealth, and this should include companies and their profits that have been tagged as beneficiaries or conduits of embezzlement, and this ought to be allowed in every corruption case currently before the courts. Should the EACC fail in the outcome of the case there can be mitigation.

Without a doubt, to reset the social psyche around corruption and how people view the benefit of acquiring illegal wealth, we need to have repeated, public demonstrations that corruption does not pay. The best way to do this requires tough skin, and some level of brutality when it comes to dealing with the cronies, family members and friends of perpetrators; people who may not directly be linked to the crime, but are beneficiaries, and conduits. Cutting off their means and access to the funds and the assets they acquire may be the tipping point, and may finally shift the paradigm from ‘waiting for our turn to eat’, to not wanting to partake at all.