Swiss give Kenya legal assistance

The spoils of corruption? Keystone

Switzerland has handed over a final batch of documents to the Swiss lawyer representing the Kenyan anti-corruption authorities in the long-running Anglo-Leasing affair. But the Swiss investigations into individuals suspected of money laundering in the same case continue.

This content was published on September 20, 2012 - 16:38
Julia Slater,

The handover on Thursday, which included banking records, was in response to requests by the Kenyan authorities for legal assistance in the case – in which a number of individuals are suspected of procuring lucrative government contracts by bribing civil servants.

The scandal, which predates the 2002 election of Kenya’s current president, Mwai Kibaki, involves state contracts in which hundreds of millions of dollars were awarded to non-existent firms for goods and services that never materialised, including forgery-proof passports, satellite dishes and forensic laboratories.

Details of the companies affected by the request are confidential. However, a report in the German-language Neue Zürcher Zeitung in August 2010 said 18 state contracts were involved, and that in 11 of these cases the trail led to Switzerland in the form of front companies or their branch offices. 

The newspaper alleged that SFr 170 million ($181 million) – corruptly taken out of the Kenyan state treasury in connection with six of these cases – was placed in Swiss bank accounts.

Legal proceedings

The Kenyan Anti-Corruption Commission (KACC) first asked the Swiss authorities for help in 2007, but this action was blocked when the Kenyan Supreme Court ruled that the KACC did not have the authority to make the request. It was only when this ruling was overturned on appeal in 2010 that the commission director was able to re-submit it.

By the end of 2011, the Swiss prosecutor’s office had issued 12 rulings in favour of handing over the evidence requested by Kenya. However, the companies concerned in five of these cases contested the decision and appealed unsuccessfully to the Federal Criminal Court.

They then had ten days in which to consider whether to appeal to the Federal Court, Switzerland’s highest legal body.

This period has now lapsed, clearing the way for the handover of the documents.

Swiss investigations

However, Switzerland has been conducting proceedings against three persons on suspicion of money laundering since April 2009 in connection with the same affair, as Jeannette Balmer, the spokeswoman for the Federal Prosecutor’s Office, told

She said that during the course of the criminal investigations, a number of bank accounts in Switzerland had been identified and frozen. The office had also analysed financial transfers.

“The findings made so far from these analyses let the office send its own requests for mutual legal assistance to various states,” she said.

The affair first came to light in 2004. Despite the fact that Kibaki fought the election with pledges to root out corruption, it was not until September 2012 that the first person – a former senior government official – was convicted of abuse of office.

No former ministers are facing trial. At the beginning of September the Kenyan parliament rejected a report accusing a cabinet minister and the governor of the central bank of entering a contract on the printing of banknotes that wasted millions of dollars, and calling on them to stand down.

Kenyan facts

Kenya is a republic currently headed by Mwai Kibaki, who is both President and Commander in Chief of the Army. The country, whose capital is Nairobi, covers 582,650 km2 and has a population of roughly 39.8 million. The currency is the Kenyan shilling (KES).

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Economic cooperation

According to the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, Kenya was Switzerland’s fifth-largest trading partner in Sub-Saharan Africa in 2011, with the volume of bilateral trade in 2011 amounting to CHF 85.5 million. Switzerland exported primarily pharmaceuticals and chemical products and imported almost exclusively agricultural products.

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