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Kenya's Anti-Corruption Body to Seize Millions of Dollars

The Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission plans to seize millions of dollars, allegedly made through corrupt deals.

Kenyan media Thursday quoted commission director Aaron Ringera as saying the money is in 78 bank accounts belonging to current and former politicians, senior civil servants and prominent business people.

Ringera said the commission has court warrants that will allow authorities to seize money in the accounts, and return it to the state.

Commission spokesman Nicholas Simani tells VOA, details of this and other actions will be made public at the end of October.

"We are supposed to prepare an annual report that is submitted to Parliament every year detailing all the activities that we have done in the course of the year," he said. "We've always been getting a lot of bashing that we've not done a lot. So, we're going to highlight all the cases that we've done [and], also the recovered assets and the ones that we are still tracing."

Simani would not give further information on the amount to be seized, where the accounts are located, or the names of the individuals involved.

Peter Odoyo is a member of Kenya's parliament, who sits on the Public Accounts Committee. He tells VOA he is doubtful that the commission would be able to gain access to much of the money.

"It's good talk, but, here, you're dealing with foreign banks, you're dealing with foreign laws, you're dealing with jurisdictions that may not be particularly receptive to Kenyan laws, etc. etc., who may not be compatible with Kenyan laws," said Odoyo. "Some of this money is kept in Swiss bank accounts, you've got all sorts of secrecy laws."

Odoyo says parliament needs to pass a law that would enable the Kenyan government to work with other governments to recover the stolen funds.

Odoyo also calls the millions in the 78 bank accounts a "drop in the ocean." He estimates that $2 billion each year disappears from public coffers.

Corruption is a big problem in Kenya. In last year's Corruption Perceptions Index, issued by Transparency International, Kenya ranked 144th out of 159 countries for graft.

Two high-profile cases, the so-called Anglo Leasing Affair and the Goldenberg scandal, are estimated to have cost the economy more than $1 billion.

Former Governance and Ethics permanent secretary John Githongo was pivotal in revealing the details of the Anglo Leasing Affair, in which government contracts were to be awarded to fictitious companies.

Githongo went into exile in London more than a year ago, claiming that his life was in danger, but this week said he wanted to come back to Kenya.

Member of Parliament Odoyo says the Public Accounts Committee is eager to meet with Githongo to get details on some of the cases the committee is working on.