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Investigations

Fueling Atrocities: KCB Customers Put At Risk Over Bank’s Involvement In Money Laundering With South Sudan Warlords Now Facing Heavy Penalties

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General Gabriel Jok Riak received large financial transfers totaling at least $367,000 to his personal bank account at Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB) from February to December 2014 alone

South Sudan became the world’s newest country in 2011, but a civil war that broke out in December 2013 has resulted in tens of thousands of deaths and has left more than 4 million people displaced, internally and externally. The proximate trigger of the civil war was a dispute between President Salva Kiir and then-Vice President Riek Machar.

However, the key catalyst of South Sudan’s civil war has been competition for control over state assets and the country’s abundant natural resources. A peace deal to halt fighting between warring factions has stalled, and the United Nations has warned that nearly two-thirds of the country will need food aid to keep from starving.

And while the conflict has had dire economic consequences for most of South Sudan’s population, many of the top officials responsible for the war in the first place have accrued enormous wealth and have families living luxurious lifestyles outside the country.

Historically, Kenya’s banking sector and real estate markets have been investment destinations of choice for members of the South Sudanese elite, including those alleged to be responsible for brutal abuses against their own people.

The result is the contamination of the Kenyan economy with proceeds from corruption and commission of atrocities by South Sudan’s political and military elite.

This not only potentially implicates Kenyan authorities, but also exposes them to the consequences of anti-money-laundering measures, which along with sanctions, have become increasingly important tools for the international community in attempting to resolve political conflicts.

Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB) has been linked to the ongoing money laundering by corrupt government officials in South Sudan, including senior military leaders sanctioned by the United Nations in the wake of the civil war which erupted in December 2013.

Among the senior army generals in South Sudan which the Sentry report named as conducted illegal money transfers to his personal bank account in the Kenyan bank is General Gabriel Jok Riak, who had been transferring hundreds of thousands of US dollars yet is monthly salary is less than $3,000 dollars, or only about $35,000 a year.

General Riak, commander of Sector One, which include Divisions 3, 4, and 5, of the South Sudan’s army, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), has been under the United Nations sanctions for his brutal role in the civil war in which all his assets have been frozen and he is banned from travelling to another country.

“Specifically, Gen. Jok Riak had command authority over a full-scale 2015 offensive across three states in violation of multiple ceasefires, and resulting in the displacement of over 100,000 people and the commission of grave war crimes,” said The Sentry report, titled ‘War Crimes Shouldn’t Pay.’

Eyewitness accounts, it said, collected by Human Rights Watch have detailed the conduct of soldiers deployed with Sector One, describing elderly women beaten to death, sexual violence, looting, and destruction committed under his command.

However, the General had been transferring huge sums of money through the KCB in the money laundering business.

“Bank records reviewed by The Sentry indicate that Gen. Jok Riak received large financial transfers totaling at least $367,000 to his personal bank account at Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB) from February to December 2014 alone—sums that dwarf his official annual salary of about $35,000,” The Sentry report revealed.

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Another top army official in South Sudan who conducted illegal money transfers through the Kenya Commercial Bank is General Reuben Riak Rengu, who the report investigation revealed that he was directly involved in procuring weapons and planning military offensives but also is involved in a wide range of commercial ventures and has received substantial payments from multinational firms from at least three countries that operate in South Sudan.

In January 2013, President Salva Kiir promoted Reuben Riak to Lieutenant General in the army, and nominated him as SPLA deputy chief of staff for logistics, effectively making him the army’s primary interlocutor with foreign weapons vendors.

“Although Gen. Reuben Riak’s official annual salary is about $32,000, information obtained by The Sentry suggests that he is living well beyond what such a salary would support and appears to have received hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments from numerous multinational companies active in South Sudan,” the report revealed.

General Reuben has illegally transferred to his personal bank account at the Kenya Commercial Bank millions of US dollars, despite having a salary of less than $3,000 dollars a month.

“Documents reviewed by The Sentry show $3.03 million moving through Gen. Reuben Riak’s personal bank account—a U.S.-dollar denominated account at Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB)—between January 2012 and early 2016,” the report further revealed.

The transactions recorded, it said, include more than $700,000 in cash deposits and large payments from several international construction companies operating in South Sudan.

Additionally, the report showed that over this four-year period, $1.16 million US dollars in cash was withdrawn from his KCB account.

The US Treasury Department imposed sanctions on two South Sudanese government officials and one former official for their roles in threatening the peace, security, or stability of South Sudan.

While these developments do not seem significantly germane to Kenya, it was expected that it could trigger a domino effect to rattle the Kenyan financial system as well as customers of those Kenyan banks who have dealt with South Sudan’s political and military elite.

Three men were singled out for targeted sanctions, because they not only “abuse human rights, seek to derail the peace process and obstruct reconciliation in South Sudan” but also profit from this destructive behaviour: Gen Malek Reuben Riak Rengu, the army’s Deputy Chief of Staff in charge of military procurement, Michael Makuei Lueth, Information Minister and Paul Malong, former chief of staff of the South Sudan People’s Liberation Army.

But the ramifications go much wider. The US Treasury also released a Financial Crimes Enforcement Network Advisory alerting US financial institutions to the possibility that certain South Sudanese senior political figures may try to use the US financial system to move or hide proceeds of corruption.

The targeted sanctions were the first in a sequence of actions that may result in heavy penalties being levied by correspondent banks in the US that have helped clear massive payments in US dollars through the correspondent banking system.

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The trail may lead straight to Kenyan banks that have transacted with military generals or their relatives. Evidence collected by a two-year investigation into the corruption, money movement and assets locations by the Sentry showed millions of dollars moving through Kenya Commercial bank accounts of both Riak and Malong.

The Kenyan parliament and finance sector need to seriously consider how Kenya’s economy intersects with the rapidly disintegrating South Sudanese economy and immunise Kenya from the contagious effect of the war before it is too late.

Until 2014, Kenya was on the Financial Action Task Force grey list of countries not doing enough to tackle money laundering or shield its financial sector from acting as a conduit for illegally acquired cash.

Kenya may end up being put back on that list if claims that Kenyan banks have been laundering assets from South Sudan are proven.

In February, South Sudanese authorities claimed to have traced Ksh1.03 billion (about $10m) to accounts in three Kenyan banks. The banking sector has a responsibility to protect their shareholders’ investment by not exposing them to risk.

The Financial Reporting Centre should investigate such claims as a matter of urgency. In addition, the Kenyan Bankers’ Association needs to conduct a vigorous risk assessment of the effect these toxic assets may have on the Kenyan consumer.

The Foreign Affairs Committee of Parliament, the Kenyan National Chamber of Commerce and the Central Bank should also conduct serious investigations.

Where illicit money is used to capture state power and inflict violence on a people, the return on that investment is impunity for those involved in these kinds of crimes.

Kenya, which has historically played an important role in helping resolve conflict in the Sudans, has enough of its own internal struggles with graft and can ill afford to import the consequences of war into its own economy.

Instead of jeopardising the peace process by providing safe havens for implicated leaders to stow away their wealth, it should use its influence for good and play an active part in resolving the current crisis, including imposing sanctions of its own or convincing regional leaders to do so within the regional formations.

The international community should expand financial pressure on those responsible for atrocities in South Sudan, building on the positive actions taken by the United States, European Union, Canada, and Australia since September 2017, which include sanctions applied to individuals and companies tied to South Sudan’s leadership.

The United States, European Union, and others in the international community should investigate the top officials who have played a role in military operations that have resulted in atrocities and, where appropriate, impose network-focused sanctions on them, their business associates and facilitators, and the companies they own or control.

Sanctions against individuals alone are often less effective because individuals often can still move money through business associates, family members and companies. By targeting multiple actors and entities together as a network, sanctions have a greater impact because they provide banks with the information they need to more effectively detect evasion.

Banks and financial regulators should step up efforts to halt the flow of illicit funds out of South Sudan. In September 2017, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) issued an Advisory focusing on the risks of money laundering connected to the government of South Sudan.

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Other financial intelligence units (FIUs) in the European Union, United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia should follow suit with alerts and other appropriate warnings. Kenya’s Financial Reporting Centre (FRC) and Uganda’s Financial Intelligence Authority (FIA) should participate and lead in their national efforts, including through engagement and cooperation with their major financial institutions and global banks providing U.S. dollar correspondent services.

These actions should then lead to measures that are focused on specific types of transactions—for example, targeting the purchases by senior South Sudanese politically exposed persons (PEPs) of real estate in Nairobi or Kampala or of the luxury sports utility vehicles parked near that property.

Banks like KCB found to be connected to be money laundering may incur heavy penalties and be subject to other law enforcement measures.

In order to have impact, regional enforcement of multilateral financial measures is key. Ethiopia, Kenya, and Uganda have been reluctant to enforce and escalate international political and financial pressures.

These countries, where such purchases are made and assets are held, should also follow up on information collected from any advisories they issue, which focus the attention and resources of banks and other private sector actors on corruption and money laundering in South Sudan.

There are numerous opportunities for the international community—including U.S. and European governments and financial institutions—to encourage South Sudan’s neighbors to increase pressure on those responsible for South Sudan’s civil war.

For example, the U.S. and European governments can directly underscore the financial risks the Kenyan and Ugandan governments continue to take and the heavy financial penalties they could face in allowing illicit activity or enabling abusive practices within their banking systems, placing at risk sectors where these governments have invested heavily, particularly in Kenya.

A report released in January 2018 by the regional anti Southern Africa Anti-money laundering body, the East and Money Laundering Group (ESAA MLG) demonstrated that the Kenyan banking system in particular faces major concerns from “de risking” by global banks that are concerned about the risks flowing through Kenya and the inability, or unwillingness, of Kenyan banks to address them.

Taking action against illicit flows from South Sudan is a direct way that Kenyan banks and regulators can demonstrate sounder practices to the international community, particularly at a time when the country is taking on increasing levels of debt from Europe and facing stronger scrutiny from the International Monetary Fund.

Continuing to enable, or at least failing to prevent, the proceeds of South Sudanese corruption to transit through the Kenyan banking system will continue to grow as a risk factor and could easily imperil the financial system. As demonstrated by investigations, these transactions can be identified, and they must be stopped.


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Investigations

Shadowy Billionaire Humphrey Kariuki Is On The Run Over Sh3Billion Monthly Tax Evasion And Massive Fraud

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Businessman Humphrey Kariuki.

Kenya’s leading alcoholic spirits manufacturer Africa Spirits Limited (ASL) is on the spot following a raid conducted by DCI and Kenya Revenue Authority officers. The joint raid that was conducted at the company’s factory in Thika was headed by the head of Flying Squad Musa Yego in conjunction with senior officials from KRA.

Investigators from KRA and DCI during the raid seized around 21 million counterfeit excise stamps and 312,000 litres of suspected illicit ethanol with an estimated tax potential of Sh. 3billion monthly at Africa Spirits factory in Thika, in an operation that commenced on 31st January 2019.

Yego said they conducted the raid following a tip-off. He added they were also investigating possibility of production of sub-standard alcohol in the factory. “We have arrested three employees who would be arraigned in court. We are also looking for the owner of the company,” said Yego. Ann Iringu a deputy commissioner at KRA said the raid was geared towards fighting illicit trade. Iringu said they were also investigating to see if the company conforms to taxation laws.

She added they had also confiscated some of KRA stamps.“We will also carry out investigations to ascertain if ethanol that has been confiscated here is illicit and if alcohol production going on in the factory is illegal,” said Ms Ngugi. The KRA official said ongoing investigations which will take about a week will reveal if the company has been evading tax and to what extent. She appealed to KRA officials at the country’s border points to be vigilant in order to ensure no illegal goods get access to the Kenyan market.

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Established in 2004, African Sprit Limited has been instrumental in shaping the local alcohol beverage market, with its brands leading various segments of Brandy, Gin and Vodka.

Some of it products include Legend Gold Brandy, Blue moon Vodka, Blue Moon Vodka flavors (Apple, Mango & Ginger), Gypsy King Gin and The Furaha Range among others.

African Spirit Limited is owned by shadowy Billionaire Humphrey Kariuki who has been implicated in other scandals including drug trafficking even though the courts recently cleared his name of the accusations. Kariuki who co owns empire with Harun Mwau are said to be falling apart after a 40 year partnership.

The two were named in the drug cartel. Amongst their known businesses includes The Hub an upmarket mall in Karen, Mount Kenya Safari Club In Nanyuki, Wines of the world amongst many others that we shall mention in our subsequent series in exposing a long history of fraud including Kariuki’s Involvement in South Sudan war where his oil company was involved in looting the funds and fueling the escalating war.

Last year, the government scuttled Wine of the World Beverages bid to exclusively import and distribute exotic wine and spirit brands from seven international suppliers to avert a monopoly.

In a statement, the Competition Authority of Kenya said the company’s exclusive distributorship agreements with the distributors would have seen it dominate the market and lock out rivals at the expense of consumers.

His roots in South Sudan is so deep that Salva Kirr spends at his opulent Dik Dik Gardens, Kileleshwa home. Kiir In a report by Sentry was named amongst South Sudan’s leaders use the country’s oil wealth to get rich and terrorize civilians.

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Investigations

‪DCI Recommends Charges Against Five Local Banks Over Involvement In The NYS II Heist As DPP Haji Forms Team To Review Files‬

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DPP Noordin Haji.

Trouble looms for banks and officials who were involved in the illegal NYS II transactions a scandal that saw Sh8B embezzled. DPP Noordin has issued a statement on the progress following investigations on the marked banks by the DCI.

DCI investigations as directed by the DPP on the criminal culpability has found five banks liable; Standard Chartered, KCB, Equity,Co-Op bank and DTB all have a case to answer. The banks violated restrictions that govern banks in Kenya by facilitating flow of proceeds from crime and money laundering.

Investigations established that the Standard Chartered Bank received a total of Sh.1,628,902,000 between January 2016 and April 2018 out of which Sh.588,558,000 was suspiciously transacted by bank’ Officials without reporting to the Financial Reporting Center as opposed to the POCAMLA regulations.

KCB according to the investigations had received Sh800M of which Sh148,397,000 was suspiciously transacted by bank officials without sticking to the POCAMLA regulations.

Equity Bank received Sh.886,426,904 and that Sh264,200,000 and USD58,000 was transacted without adherence to the regulations.

Diamond Trust Bank which is currently under prove over involvement in helping Dusit terrorists launder their money for the attack, is in the frying pan as well. Investigations reveal that, the bank had received Sh.164M out of which Sh27,946,298 went without being captured by the regulatory board.

Co-Op Bank received Sh.250M and suspiciously transacted Sh.25M without reporting. DPP has since constituted a team of senior prosecutors who’ll review the files and give recommendations in the next two weeks.

DTB had been fined Sh56 million by CBK while Co-operative Bank will pay Sh20 million. The five banks handled a total of Sh3.5 billion from NYS with StanChart handling the largest transaction worth Sh1.6 billion followed by Equity Bank at Sh886 million, while KCBprocesses Sh639 million. The same banks involved in the NYS I are also the ones being chopped over NYS II. It seems the fines never worked so the punishment this time should even be heavier.

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Investigations

How Gulf African Bank Conspired To Defraud A Client His Sh500M Property In An Insider Mortgage Fraud Scheme

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Gulf African Bank managing director, Abdallah Abdulkhalik.

In March 2009, SAX Limited had sought a loan from Gulf Bank to buy two aircrafts and related equipment. Mohamud Sheikh Hussein offered his property L.R No. Eastleigh 36/11/1 as the guarantor. By then, his property was worth Sh160M and has since gone up. For him it was just another of many bank engagements but unknown to him, it would end up in a decade long fight to regain full control of his suit property.

In April, 2009, Gulf Bank after reviewing the securities, agreed to advance a Murabaha Asset Finance Facility To SAC Ltd as the borrower Sh95M. This amount would be used in purchasing a used Aircraft Beechcraft Baron 95-E55,5Y-BPC at a cost of Sh11,200,000. A 5 tonne, Sideley HS478 Aircraft From Track Mark Ltd at Sh80M and Sh2.9M to purchase propellers.

The Sh160M property of Mohamud was to guarantee for Sh120M with SAC directors guaranteeing Sh94M but the registration was to remain jointly in the name of the bank and the company SAC. The terms for this MURABAHA facility was that profit and not interest would be charged at 16.5% of the facility.

That was a deal sealed and so Mohamud thought his work was finished. Things started making twists on 4th May barely weeks after SAC was advanced the principal amount of Sh95M. Gulf issued SAC with a second letter of offer varying the terms of the MURABAHA facility and this would translate into review of security terms for the mortgage. In a offer letter dated 4th May 2008, now the security property as the first ranking had a legal charge of  Sh95M, Mohamud switched to guarantee Sh95M.

In a letter of offer dated 4th November 2009 and seen by Kenya Insights, a second Murabaha stock finance was advanced to SAC the borrower for the sum of Sh15M. This amount was over and above the sums secured by the initial mortgage dated 9th September according to court papers.

Now here’s the point Fraud started playing, this second facility of Sh15M was given by the bank to SAC using Mohamud’s knowledge and consent as the guarantor and so the Murabaha facility wasn’t secured by the initial mortgage according to a court of appeal ruling on this case.

Gulf representatives liaised with SAC, reviewed the terms of mortgage while using the guarantor’s property, went ahead and issued another facility of Sh15M without his consent just to make the open breach clearer. The varied terms of repayment of the loan facility were of no effect and as a result, Mohamud was discharged from his obligation. Gulf unlawfully accommodated SAC the borrower and varied his terms of payment.

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Having been fully discharged by the bank as a guarantor, there was no way in law the bank would reviver any amount on the second facility from Mohamud but from SAC the principal borrower. To affirm this in a demand letter dated 26th April 2010, in admission to this fact, wrote to SAC seeking the payment of the second facility. Mohamud wasn’t copied since he had been fully discharged by the bank as the guarantor on the principal amount.

In June 24th 2010 according to court documents, Gulf confirmed that SAC had fully settled the Murabaha loan facility which was done by the insurers on payment of the insurance of $370,000.

It didn’t end there, SAC(borrower) went ahead and sought a third facility(Tawarraq Working Capital Finance) Of Sh58,672,978 which was to be repayable in 24 months. Once again, Mohamud’s Eastleigh property without his knowledge and consent, was used to guarantee this third and illegal loan facility which wasn’t registered against his property according to court papers.

SAC the principal borrower defaulted in the payment of the third facility and Gulf sent him a demand letter dated 19th November 2010 seeking the settlement of arrears of Sh4,174,525.31. This letter wasn’t copied to Mohamud in tacit admission by the bank that Mohamud wasn’t liable as the guarantor.

Despite of all the accusations of playing dirty, the bank insisted that Mohamud was aware of the variations and approved them contradicting their body language. They never engaged him at any point after inking the initial mortgage facility.

In a sharp twist by a letter dated 26th January 2011, a firm Mohamed Muigai Advocates purported to issue a three months statutory notice on behalf of the bank seeking payment of Sh67,078,541.08. Here’s where the real games started playing.

SAC as the principal borrower informed Mohamed Muigai firm that the bank had waived the purported statutory notice by accepting payment and rescheduling proposal. By this, SAC admitted to liability as the principal borrower and the numerous proposals for settlement.

Despite all the breaches of all standard banking precepts, Gulf Bank purported to restructure the loan facility to make Mohamud who was the guarantor to make him the principal borrower. This, Mohamud says in court letters that it was illegal,l and vitiated by Fraud, duress and coercion so as to constitute an unconscionable bargain in law.

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In play, the security documentation and letters were all drafted by the Gulf’s legal department and Mohamud wasn’t allowed the privilege of independent legal advice on the implications of signing the letter of offer dated 26th May 2011 in what he says the bank unlawfully coerced and duped him by purporting to restructure the loan facility and waive its exercise of statutory power of sale while in law, the bank didn’t have any statutory power of sale.

It doesn’t make sense that the bank purportedly made Mohamud the principal borrower yet there wasn’t consideration for the diminishing Musharaka sale and lease back Finance facility and not a single cent has been disbursed to Mohamud.

Worth noting that the bank had initially discharged Mohamud as the guarantor when it rescheduled the facilities in favore of SAC the principal borrower. For a fact, Gulf Bank has forwarded Mohamud a re-conveyance Of mortgage confirming that all the money secured under the mortgage of Sh95M the principal amount that is the only one he approved to had been fully paid.

Reconveyance of mortgage forwarded by the bank to Mohamud clearing him.

Amina Bashir, the Then Bank’ Company Secretary and Head of Legal Department is a key person of interest in this ploy. According to court documents seen by Kenya Insights, Amina drew agreements dated 26th May 2011 and purchase agreement dated 30th June 2011 in which she made Mohamud liable for payment of Sh68,455,295.08. In this reversal of roles, Amina purported to make Mohamud the principal borrower (SAC) now the guarantor to Mohamud when in fact no facility was advanced to him.

The Sh68.4M that now the bank was putting on Mohamud, Musharak Asset Purchase Agreement that Mohamud alleges he was duped and coarced into signing is described as a clear fraud on his side to enable the bank sale his property. Simple question that the bank need to answer is if Mohamud was a principal borrower as they purport then where’s the proof that he was paid? None as it never happened.

September 4th 2012, SAC the principal borrower in admission through a letter, confirmed it owed the bank the Sh68,455,295.08 that the bank purported to have been borrowed by Mohamud in their reversal roles theatrics. This debt according to court documents is fictitious and fraud that can’t be basis of any valid statutory notice.

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In arguing their case to hold the statutory notice, Gulf Bank lies to the Court of Appeal by not disclosing that they had registered a re-conveyance of mortgage dated 8th August 2011 on 18th 2011 and there wasn’t mortgage in force.

The Chief Land Registrar confirmed that the last entry on the file was the re-conveyance of mortgage confirming that the property is fully and legally under Mohamud and held no debt, keep in mind the bank has cleared him of the loan.


With everything working against them and all factors exposing this clear fraud, Gulf Bank has served Mohamud with a notice of sale by public auction by Garam Investments on 17th Dec in respect of his Eastleigh property that he used to guarantee a loan and which the bank had cleared him of. The property would be auctioned on 19th February 2019 despite there being no mortgage registered against the property, non whatsoever

Following the sustained efforts to illegally acquire and sell his property, Mohamud has since published a Caveat Emptor Buyer Beware on local dailies warning the public against being duped into the purported public auctioning of his Eastleigh property.

PUBLIC NOTICE!

At Kenya Insights, we’re just opening a case which we believe if it’s the norm, then there could be many  frustrated customers like Mohamud. We’re asking members of public who might have fallen prey to such mannerisms of coercion and duping to write to us with solid proof on either Gulf Bank or any financial institution, we will highlight. Our email is below this post.

As for Gulf Bank, we’ve picked this case and will be going into much deeper details in subsequent series, how a bank turned against a guarantor is a reason to worry many other potential or existing guarantors to their facilities. What does the bank know that Mohamud or the courts doesn’t know? Why is the bank withholding Mohamud’s land documents despite having cleared him of any debt? Why did Amina Bashir change the loans agreements along the way without consent of the guarantor? What’s the level of BODs involvement in this scheme? Series continues…


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