Friday, February 06, 2009

UK fraud office halts Kenya probe

From the BBC:

"The United Kingdom's Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has terminated its probe into the "Anglo Leasing affair", one of Kenya's biggest corruption cases.

The SFO said it halted the probe into $100m contracts with the phantom Anglo Leasing Finance firm after Kenya failed to produce evidence to try suspects. But the Kenyan justice minister has told the BBC that British laws favour those who are involved in corruption.

"Its unfortunate but I also know that the laws in their country actually favour those who have stashed their money away. But I'm not excusing our ineptitude as a nation," Martha Karua said.

The SFO began its probe in July 2007, and was investigating offshore accounts in the British tax havens of Jersey and Guernsey."

Whatever could he mean about British laws? Take a look at this transcript from a 2006 interview with Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria's former finance minister, about repatriating stolen assets.

Q: How are things progressing with the repatriation of money filched by former officials and stored in Western banks. I hear the Swiss authorities have become very helpful, unlike the British.

Ngozi: The Swiss have now returned $500 million of stolen resources. Switzerland has set the example.

Q: What about the British?

She gives a long throaty chuckle

Ngozi: Now heaven help me. It's very hard to condemn the British. On debt relief the UK has set the example. Britain has done us proud, especially Gordon Brown who worked immensely hard negotiating with the G8 finance ministers. We needed someone round that table who was in our corner and Gordon Brown did that job.

Q: So why are the British dragging their feet on the repatriation of stolen resources?

Ngozi: It's been more difficult with the British. Our president has raised it many times with Prime Minister Blair. Eventually he returned $3m. We understand there are other monies but while all the discussion was going on those monies left the country and went somewhere else. The UK says it has all these laws. . . but in the end they managed to return us a little bit."

There you have it, in a nutshell. Britain is unusually culpable for the big dirty secret of foreign aid: for every dollar that we have been sending to developing countries in foreign aid, we take back an estimated ten dollars, under the table.


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