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Kenya, Swiss ink pact to recover billions stashed in overseas account

Kenya has signed a memorandum of understanding with a Swiss government agency to boost recovery of looted wealth stashed overseas.

Switzerland is among the top havens in the world preferred for hiding illicit wealth due to its secretive banking practices.

Attorney-General (AG) Githu Muigai said the MOU with the Swiss Federal Council will facilitate mutual assistance between the two countries through the provision of technical assistance that is aimed at confiscating illegally acquired assets and repatriating them.

The AG also lauded the move as key in fighting corruption, especially where those who loot the assets hide them abroad.

“The signing of the MOU between the Swiss Federal Council and the Republic of Kenya on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters goes a long way in reassuring Kenyans that the days of thieves are numbered. You can run, but you no longer have a hiding place because all our partners are supporting us in this fight,” Mr Muigai said at the ceremony attended by Swiss Ambassador to Kenya  Ralf Heckner.

Tax amnesty

Key areas of cooperation in the MOU include assets recovery in various parts of the world as well as the repatriation of criminals and their proceeds. Kenya now plans to develop a treaty on extradition to facilitate the transfer of the criminals to face justice as well as recover what has been looted.

The Mutual Legal Assistance Act 2011 came into effect on December 2, 2011 and provides for legal assistance to be given and received by the Government of Kenya from foreign countries and partners in relations to investigations, prosecutions and judicial proceedings on criminal matters.

Kenya is also racing to recover billions stashed in overseas account by its citizens over the years. One of the latest is a tax amnesty window given to tax cheats holding cash and property abroad.

Treasury secretary Henry Rotich extended the pardon by six more months during his April Budget speech, pushing the deadline to June 2018.

The amnesty covers taxes, penalties or interest in respect of any year of income ending on or before December 31, 2016 and allows those with assets held abroad to repatriate them with no questions on their origins or past records.

READ: Rotich extends tax amnesty for fat cats with cash abroad

Once those with wealth hidden abroad have declared them, they are issued with a certificate to declare their tax evasion sins forgiven.

Stakeholders have voiced concerns that the move meant put more high net worth individuals into the tax system will be prone to abuse as many will use it to launder their wealth—some thought to have been acquired illegally — by returning it to Kenya.

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