Bottomline: Money stolen from public coffers is invested in the private sector, have you ever wondered why we have a vibrant private sector when it comes to housing, education,public transport,supply chain stores and health? where the government with its deep pockets has failed unopposed in these areas….
Reading Jeffrey Robinson book, The Laundrymen one gets to understand how dirty money gets cleaned, through which avenues and why modern day laundering doesn’t require banks, forex bureaus and money transmitters which are closely monitored by international intelligence agencies such as Interpol and Central intelligence Agency.
Modern day money laundering goes unnoticed unless you closely focus on the wider microeconomics as the cash is rarely banked or transferred leaving no paper trail. It’s a white collar crime undertaken by white collared individuals.
The government move to shut down most Hawallas which were used to launder piracy proceeds and fund terrorism in 2015, most of them are still operational serving a clique of trusted customers to avoid government scrutiny. According to US Department of State Kenya is amongst countries of primary concern when it comes to money laundering. Money laundering takes place through the following avenues in this country;
Malls; As much as the country might be boasting of an ‘imaginary’ middle class that bankrolls its lifestyle courtesy of bank,mobile and any available loans. Being a capital intensive undertaking most malls used to launder illicit money are not in the business to make money but to act as conduits to conceal the origin of the illegally obtained money through the restaurants, movie theatres, fashion cloth lines and supermarkets. The mushrooming of malls everywhere within a short period of time in a country where majority of the population lives below the poverty line shows that there is more than meets the eye. Why is it that there is increasing show of wealth but persistent,consistent,biting poverty?
Real Estate ; the best avenue to launder money more so money stolen from government coffers after Swiss banks which provided safe haven for white collar criminals and their proceeds started returning the loot to respective countries, though they are not serious on expediting the money back anyway. It’s the best avenue for corrupt government officials, tenderpreneurs and drug cartels as it is a long term investment. The ripple effects manifested by the massive real estate investments in city suburbs concealed transactions, through the help of rogue lawyers, real estate and land buying companies which they easily buy off inflating the value of land beyond the reach of the ordinary citizens.
V8s and luxury cars; the number of Land Cruiser V8 outnumbers the number of Proboxes, Vitz and Premios in a 3rd World country something is definitely wrong with the financial systems. The number of these luxury vehicles on our roads has tripled overnight owned by young ‘faceless’ nouveau riche who don’t have any history of employment, business or family inheritance a clear indication that car dealership is a serious money laundering front.
Supply Chain stores; Supermarkets to be specific. The number of supermarkets in this country has ballooned overnight with Nakumatt leading the pack. This all under one roof establishment established in 1987 was just another average retail store until it grew overnight opening branches across East Africa stocking goods only available in international chain stores such as Bentonville headquartered Walmart. The media hype and bravado it has exhibited in the Kenyan market overtime where government backed Uchumi is on auto pilot mode with empty shelves, seasoned Ukwala is struggling to pay taxes to KRA shows that there is something ‘they are doing differently’ or they have an alternative source of ‘income’ the seasoned competitors don’t have. The day financial laws to curb money laundering will tighten the noose on illicit money flow in our economy Nakumatt will be a casualty. Their massive expansion story over a short period of time doesn’t add up……..
Nigerian and Congolese businessmen; there are many Nigerian and Congolese running legit businesses in the country, however, there is also a clique of ‘businessmen’ from these countries who do everything in general and nothing in particular. The West Africans alongside their Cameroonian brothers are renowned drug peddlers, black market operatives, wildlife traffickers and international fake currency manufacturers through their ‘wash wash’ system. Their Congolese counterparts are black market precious metal dealers who are able to smuggle hard wood products, gold and diamonds across different nations since they have managed to pocket the security apparatus through their deep pockets.
Bars, Restaurants, Filling stations and Guest houses; since building luxury hotels will attract unnecessary attention and scrutiny bars, guest houses, corner restaurants, filling stations and liquor stores seem to be the easiest way out. City corner restaurants are taking over with emerging brands expanding at alarming rates.With the tough economic situation facing majority of the population women turn to prostitution as a way of making ends meet whereas men seek solace in alcohol to forget their frustrations. This two situations make this establishments thrive thus the steady increase in the number of guest houses, liquor stores and lodges cropping up everywhere in a bid to clean the cash. Filling stations provide a base to fuel the economy with constant cash flows.
Gambling; Kenya being a gambling haven thanks to the huge number of disillusioned youths who believe they will sleep poor and wake up rich without any struggle. The invasion of sports betting companies has aided ‘small man’ gambling which is widespread amongst the populace. Gambling used to be a preserve of the rich, restricted to casinos this changed with the invasion of betting companies aided by digital evolution thus personalized online gambling through mobile phones. Betting machines have also flooded slums where desperation is high leading to massive ‘small’ time gambling which is addictive and detrimental as it has led to suicide. Betting companies are known to have two separate books of account one open for audit and taxation purposes while the other is out of bounds except for the senior management. A sector that isn’t easy to regulate making it an avenue to clean huge amounts of dirty money.
Transport; another billion shilling industry the government has zero control off more so when it comes to public transport this enables individuals create briefcase SACCOs which acquire fleets of minibuses which they regularly ‘update’ with new ones monthly in their bid to hasten the cleaning. The rogue Matatu industry always holds the government hostage exploiting the populace with their exorbitant charges rushing against time to clean the cash. Money in this sector is rarely banked that’s why quantifying its net worth and annual contribution to the economy isn’t easy. They control 98% of public transport curtailing government influence in the sector after the mismanagement of Kenya Bus services and Kenya National Transport Company (KENATCO) which are shadows of their former selves.
Churches; living in a country where Christian faith and Christian practice are two different things. Kenyans are known to be religious not spiritual that’s why they are very comfortable going to church every Sunday morning while taking part in corrupt activities as early as Sunday afternoon. Due to our religious nature churches are sprouting everywhere with funny names such as Green Pastures Tabernacle, Jet Fighter Ministries & Across The Road Ministries. These briefcase churches which are usually family businesses with no proper structures making them laundering avenues since no one will question remittances by the church, not even the banks creating a blindspot. Some pastors lead lavish lives driving luxurious cars, living in posh neighborhoods as their children go to the best schools while the congregation is impoverished, however, our spiritual nature doesn’t allow us to question the clergy.
Saloon, Barbershops, Boutiques and Spas; executive salons, barbershops and spas provide another platform for laundering activities to take place since it doesn’t bring much attention compared to the other businesses. Their simple outlook which is less complicated giving the assumption that they can’t be avenues for money laundering thus zero scrutiny.
Private schools; if you want to hide something from a black person hide it in a book. In a country with an ever rising population setting up of day cares, kindergartens, private primary and secondary schools provides the best avenue as nobody can look into it as a money laundering venture. These establishments have been set up everywhere as they are seen to be complementing the government efforts in the provision of education. Furthermore, our middle class populace which consider themselves as ‘private citizens’ has a ballooning appetite for privacy providing a ready market for these private institutions.
Healthcare system; health is big business in this country considering the government healthcare system is in tatters. A noble initiative no one will ever question the setting up of well-equipped private clinics across the country. These clinics are relatively affordable to the populace; just like real estate it’s another long term investment undertaking that evades public suspicion.