Ideas & Debate

It’s time fraudulent bankers paid their debt to Kenyans

The buck for criminal charges sits squarely in the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions. FILE PHOTO | NMG
The buck for criminal charges sits squarely in the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Earlier this month I penned a piece about Iceland and Ireland being the only two known countries that had jailed bankers following the 2008 global financial crisis.

As fate would have it, I visited Dublin a few weeks ago and chatted with a friendly driver on my way back to the airport. First things first, the Irish people are as warm as Kenyans, and remarkably welcoming and hospitable.

“We are not like the French,” said my driver tongue in cheek, “so we don’t go protesting in the streets when we are unhappy about something.”

By this time we were talking about the effect of the global financial crisis and the Irish economy’s painful but steady recovery over the last nine years following property price crashes and banking failures.

According to my driver, the public was not satisfied with the arrest and subsequent jailing of the three bankers I wrote about.

Willie McAteer and John Bowe from Anglo Irish Bank and Denis Casey, the former CEO of Irish Life and Permanent, were jailed for terms ranging from two to three and a half years for their roles in a €7 billion (Sh805 billion) fraud at the height of the financial crisis.

But David Drumm, the CEO of Anglo Irish Bank, fled to Boston in the US in 2009 when it became clear that the bank was going to collapse and filed for bankruptcy under Massachusetts law. The Irish public wanted justice. They wanted Drumm to come home and answer for his crimes.

The hearing at the Boston-based court heard from the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation, which fought Drumm’s claims for bankruptcy, as he owed it €9 million (Sh1.04 billion).

It was alleged during the case that Drumm had transferred money and assets to his wife, so they could not be seized during the bankruptcy proceedings. In early 2015, the court ruled the application inadmissible and that he could be held liable for the €10.5m debts in Ireland.

Subsequently, the Irish Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) recommended a number of charges be brought against Drumm. In 2015, the DPP successfully sought the extradition of Drumm who was arrested in October and extradited back to Ireland.

Conspiracy to defraud

Drumm was charged with 33 counts including forgery, counterfeiting documents, conspiracy to defraud, unlawful giving of financial assistance in association with the purchase of shares, and disclosing false or misleading information in a management report.

Collective Irish indignation, coupled with dogged determination on the part of the Irish DPP, led to the arrest and extradition of one man who played a part in the collapse of an Irish bank that cost the taxpayer €29 billion (Sh3.3 trillion). He is currently out on bail awaiting trial later this year.

“People are angry and they want to see justice,” my driver went on. “No one will ever forget what that Drumm chap and his colleagues did to us.” We have spent an inordinate amount of time in Kenya focusing on the role of the regulator in the case of Dubai, Chase and Imperial banks.

We have waxed lyrical and railed continuously about how the regulator, the Central Bank of Kenya, is not doing enough to bring the perpetrators of the malfeasances in the respective banks to book.

But the regulator has played a big part, via Kenya Deposit Insurance Corporation, in attempting to get justice by filing civil suits against senior management, directors and shareholders of both Imperial and Chase Bank this year.

The buck for criminal charges sits squarely in the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions who is supposed to represent the collective Kenyan indignation, anger and thirst for retribution.

But given our growing apathy to corruption that bestrides both the public and private sector like a colossus, such righteous indignation may be lacking.

And just like that, the fraudulent bankers will walk away into the sunset, having paid a monetary price for their crimes if the civil cases are successful.