The suspicious transactions that the Central Bank of Kenya captured during the retirement of old banknotes must be investigated and legal action taken against those in breach.
The CBK set a September 30 deadline for everyone to convert their old Sh1,000 into new ones after the old currency became the banknote of choice for money launderers and dealers in fake currency.
While the banking regulator revealed that about Sh7.3 billion “dirty cash” was not returned to the banking system, it captured 3,172 transactions as suspicious and reported them to the authorities during the conversion that lasted four months from June 1.
This information is a goldmine to other investigative agencies, including the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA), police and the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) to uncover more cases of handling of proceeds of crime.
Those exchanging large amounts, notably cash in excess of Sh1 million and repeated returns, were required to explain how they acquired the cash.
The move was designed to stop the flow of proceeds of crime, like corruption and counterfeiting of bank notes, through the financial system.
The vetting offers the reasons Sh7.3 billion unreturned could have been gained from criminal networks.
Though we are little bothered with the unreturned billions because they are invalid and have been reduced to worthless paper, we call on investigative agencies to get to the bottom of the flagged suspicious transactions and uncover unexplained wealth and the sources of illicit cash flows.
This is a window for the authorities to restore public confidence in the fight against corruption and theft of public resources. Media have reported on dozens of graft scandals involving public officers conspiring to steal from State coffers. Some officials have been tried, but none has been convicted.
The lack of big ticket conviction has lent credence to the view that there are sacred cows in the fight against graft. This needs to be debunked.
Therefore, we demand that investigative agencies aggressively pursue the suspect transactions to make the demonetisation a success and also to make corruption unattractive.