EDITORIAL: Probe offshore accounts


KRA last year said 3,403 applicants had wired back Sh1 trillion following a three-year amnesty. FILE PHOTO | NMG

The government needs to probe the status of offshore accounts and repatriate taxpayers’ money stashed in foreign countries. A World Bank-backed research has claimed that Kenya’s political elite in the Moi/Kibaki era stashed more than Sh327.89 billion in offshore bank accounts over a two decade period when the country received billions in donor aid.

This money was stolen from the public yet it could have been used to improve the lives of Kenyans. The biggest losers in all this are Kenyans who lack basic amenities such as schools, good roads and social services.

The Kenya Revenue Authority last year said 3,403 applicants had wired back Sh1 trillion following a three-year amnesty, but later disclosed that it could not trace the cash. The colossal amount did, however, not make a visible impact in the economy, raising questions on where the cash has been kept or invested. The owners of the cash could have effectively ‘cleaned’ their wealth and evaded any questions on the source of the money or any tax liabilities that may have been due in the years before they made the declaration. A full probe of offshore accounts and individuals who hold them would reveal whether the repatriated money was used for the intended purpose of development or shipped back to offshore investments after receiving clearance from the State.

Also, it would help expose individuals who emptied public coffers for selfish gains.

A report by an American think tank, the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), in 2018 revealed that Kenya’s super-rich were holding more than Sh5 trillion in offshore tax havens.