- Money laundering is a financial crime that enables the concealment of illicit funds to give them legitimacy.
- It is a crime that poses a significant threat to the stability of the financial system of any country and the global economy at large.
Not once, twice or even thrice has reports of money laundering dominated Kenya's media reports.
The numerous times it has featured in the country's prime-time news bulletins points to the glaring reality that it is a thorn in the flesh of the country's financial system.
Money laundering is a financial crime that enables the concealment of illicit funds to give them legitimacy.
It is a crime that poses a significant threat to the stability of the financial system of any country and the global economy at large.
But even as efforts are in place to tame this vice that is gaining prominence and roping in big names in the country's political and social settings, the public has a key role to play.
To combat this menace effectively, the public must be aware of its existence.
This will enable them equipped with the knowledge needed to identify, report, and prevent money laundering activities.
Top on the list is to ensure the public understands money laundering.
Criminals engaged in this vice deploy complicated methods to give their fraudulently acquired monies much-needed legitimacy.
Such methods include smurfing, structuring, and establishment of shell companies.
This web of complicated methods covers up the tail of the illicit funds and in the end, makes their mission a success.
Government agencies must channel resources to ensure the public is aware of these methods to aid in abating situations where someone plays a role in money laundering without knowing.
Knowledge is power, so they say. Empowering the public with knowledge will enable one to better recognize potential suspicious activities and take the necessary action.
Creating awareness of the red flags for money laundering must also be a priority for government agencies.
These red flags include transacting large amounts of money without a clear purpose.
Other are international transfers of large sums of cash whose purpose and reason are opaque and without explanation.
This is not new. We have heard numerous times the EACC has sought orders freezing accounts that received suspicious monies from overseas.
The public must also be aware that when they see a business making huge and abnormal profits while their operations are minimal, definitely money laundering could be taking place.
A sudden change in someone's behaviour and social status without reasonable explanation or unclear source of financial resources should also enable one to raise doubt on the legitimacy of his money.
Knowing key aspects of money laundering does no good if the public does not help in reporting suspicious financial activities that come their way.
By reporting suspicious financial activities that they come across, members of the public will be helping key agencies such as the EACC, DCI and the Financial Reporting Centre ( FRC) to tame this vice.
Citizens should not worry about the fightback of these money launderers as they can always report these cases anonymously.
The EACC for instance have toll-free line 1551 and an email address [email protected] where you can anonymously report on any money laundering activities.
One can also visit in person any EACC regional offices and integrity centre and lodge a concern and have action taken.
DCI on their part have a Fichua Kwa DCI toll-free service where Kenyans can give tip-off to the sleuths to act on suspicious fraudulent activities.
But even as we ask members of the public to play a role in the fight, the government must establish stringent anti-money laundering (AML) laws and regulations.
The laws must also protect whistleblowers and if possible reward those who sacrifice their safety to better and protect our financial system.
These regulations must also be made known to the public to enable them to have the urge to identify and report potential violations for action.
To achieve this, government agencies must carry out community outreach and education programs to inform people of risks and safety measures to take when reporting money laundering
Empowering individuals this way with knowledge can help build a united front against this illicit activity.
At the heart of the battle against money laundering, the public's active involvement is crucial.
By creating an understanding of the nature of money laundering, recognizing suspicious activities, reporting them to the authorities, and staying informed about AML laws, we can collectively strengthen global efforts to combat this financial crime.
It is only through a united front and heightened awareness that we can effectively crack the whip on money laundering and protect the integrity of our financial systems.
Ahmed Sadik is a government expert who comments on topical issues.