Editorials

Parliament’s illicit assets probe must be thorough

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The Kenya Revenue Authority headquarters at Times Tower in Nairobi. FILE PHOTO | NMG

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Summary

  • We cannot afford to spend yet more resources without tangible results to show for it. Recent developments, however, offer Parliament’s Finance and National Planning Committee an opportunity to make meaningful progress in this endeavour.

The issue of illicit assets stashed abroad needs to be resolved once and for all. For decades, the country has grappled with investigating and repatriating ill-gotten wealth to Kenya with minimal success.

In the latest effort, the National Assembly is launching a probe into money held by Kenyans in foreign bank accounts with the aim of returning stolen and unexplained wealth to the State.

Let this be a thorough, effective investigation whose findings will be enforced with urgency and without fear or favour.

We cannot afford to spend yet more resources without tangible results to show for it. Recent developments, however, offer Parliament’s Finance and National Planning Committee an opportunity to make meaningful progress in this endeavour.

The country was shocked to learn that some Sh896 billion that wealthy Kenyans declared as having been wired back into the country from offshore accounts after being offered an amnesty cannot be traced.

Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) records show that 3,543 Kenyans repatriated Sh118 billion as at August 30. The amount is a fraction of the Sh1.014 trillion that the taxman declared on May 13, 2019 as cash wired back from overseas by 16,000 Kenyans.

The KRA has in the past said it was not sure whether the repatriated money was used for the intended purpose of development or shipped back to foreign jurisdictions after receiving clearance from the State.

The applicants took advantage of the three-year amnesty window to return the cash in a period when they were not required to declare the source of their wealth or even account for previous years’ tax arrears.

Whatever the circumstances in which the Sh896 billion left Kenya, the episode demonstrates the scale of wealth held by Kenyans overseas. If it is true that the money was wired to Kenya and then out to offshore accounts, banks and financial regulators have records of the transactions.

Those who make their money honestly have nothing to fear and should co-operate with Parliament’s investigation.