Ignore reports on money laundering-Makuei

Ignore reports on money laundering-Makuei
Michael Makuei, Minister of Information and Broadcasting (photo credit: courtesy)

The Minister of Information and Government Spokesperson Michael Makuei has rubbished the recent expose by Sentry alleging that some South Sudanese leaders have siphoned oil money and redirected them to fund real estate businesses in Kenya.

Addressing the media on Friday, Makuei termed the report unsubstantiated and biased document engineered to tarnish the names of South Sudanese leaders. 

He said the Sentry report about South Sudan was authored by people who are turned their guns against the government officials after enjoying a cordial relationship.

“Sentry Group is a group that was working with us and when we fell [out] with them, they turned against us and they are writing all sorts of nonsense about us, which cannot in any way proven to be right,’’ he said. 

“They avoid us then they go and write outside. These reports are unfounded and biased because some of these writers have been with us. We were working with them and we know the reason why we fell out,” he added.

In the recent report released by Sentry, Kenya was accused of having a weak financial system to guard the real estate sector hence opening a floodgate for money laundering by the corrupt officials from South Sudan to invest their ill-gotten wealth. 

 “South Sudanese politically exposed persons (PEPs), responsible for the conflict have infiltrated Kenyan banking, real estate, trade, defence, and corporate enterprises with their ill-gotten gains. Kenya is a destination country for illicit South Sudanese funds, which have been moved into Kenya using Kenyan corporate structures, luxury properties, and banks. Arms have also transited through Kenya into South Sudan,” the report stated in part.

Allegations of report

The Sentry’s investigation alleged that several corrupt officials in South Sudan keep their assets in Kenya through corporate structures, luxury properties and banks.

It further stated: “The Sentry has identified numerous cases in which South Sudanese PEPs have purchased luxury real estate in Kenya for themselves or their families. This could indicate that the sources of wealth and funds are not being reviewed as part of due diligence checks by the Kenyan real estate sector”. 

The sentry also accused some Kenyan citizens among them the political elites of partnering to set up businesses with corrupt officials in the region to make it easy for them to move illicit funds within the region.

The report also revealed that some Kenyan corporate structures benefited from the $922 million South Sudanese letters of credit scandal, in which oil-backed loans were used to secure financing and importation of food and goods from neighbouring countries.

“These corporate structures, which were owned by South Sudanese senior officials, members of their families, or well-connected traders, failed to provide the goods following payment, contributing to widespread severe hunger and famine in South Sudan,” it stated.

The Sentry report further alleged that it had obtained a document that indicates that millions of dollars in payments linked to top South Sudanese officials that transacted through Kenyan banks.

“In one instance, a South Sudanese PEP purchased a luxury home using a US dollar-denominated account held at the Ugandan branch of a Kenyan bank. This occurred during a period of intense fighting involving a nonstate militia that was funded and supported by the PEP’s office”.

Ready to act

Nonetheless, Makuei urged the Sentry to share any reports about South Sudan with the government before publishing them so that the government can also investigate the officials involved in corruption.

“There are people who are there and they are writing their reports which are not substantiated. And, they write them to those who pay them. If there is any problem at all they should have been copying us so that we know and investigate,” he urged. 

He said the government will not take any action against officials accused of corruption in the report by Sentry because they were not consulted by the group when gathering the data about the officials.

“Should we now receive reports from them and they send to UN or human right or to whatever bodies over there and then based on those the report, should we come and investigate? These people are not genuine, they are not serious if they meant the right thing; they would have reported to us then we will take it up and investigate,” said Makuei.

UN human rights have also accused government officials in South Sudan of looting millions of dollars from the country’s resources, a report that the Minister of Cabinet Affairs Dr Martin Elia Lomuro described as an edifice of the enemies of South Sudan and her stability. 

The Sentry Group is an investigative and policy team that follows the dirty money connected to African war criminals and transnational war profiteers. It seeks to shut those benefiting from violence out of the international financial system.