I have been working in Jersey this week, and at the start of the week it was announced that Jersey has undertaken to return to Kenya over £3 million of stolen assets, in an agreement signed by the Jersey Chief Minister on a visit to Kenya. The money was pilfered by Kenyan Samuel Gichuru, who was Chief Executive of the state-owned Kenya Power and Lighting Company and, in that capacity, accepted backhanders from people in exchange for awarding lucrative contracts to various engineering and energy companies around the world. The bribes were paid by them to a Jersey company called Windward Trading Limited, of which Gichuru was the beneficial owner. On 26 February 2016, Windward Trading Limited pleaded guilty in Jersey to laundering the proceeds of corruption between 29 July 1999 and 19 October 2001; the Royal Court imposed a confiscation order of £3,281,897.40 and US$540,330.69, thereby stripping Windward of all its assets – and set about thinking how to get this money back to Kenya, while safeguarding it from future pilfering by other corrupt PEPs. The recent agreement paves the way for this – and also makes it more likely that Kenya will co-operate in the extradition of Gichuru and co-accused Chrysanthus Okemo (the former Kenyan Energy Minister) from Kenya to face money laundering charges in Jersey.
Asset recovery is – as explained in the States of Jersey press release – often slowed by “the legal complexities of confiscation and asset sharing”. Indeed, it is generally recognised that asset recovery costs more – much more – than the assets that are recovered. But it is the look of the thing, and the principle of the thing. Criminals must know that, no matter how distant in time and space they may be from their criminal activities, they will be pursued and their criminal proceeds confiscated. And the public must know that criminal assets are not simply overlooked and allowed to stay with criminals because it’s rather a pain to get them back.
I have written before about what happens to confiscated criminal proceeds: in essence, all efforts are made to return them to victims. But if victims cannot be found, or if the money was spent on illegal activities in the first place (e.g. drug proceeds), then a palatable and – if possible – socially beneficial alternative has to be found. And in Jersey, they have played a blinder: their top-notch new police HQ, which opened this week, has been partially funded, to the tune of £15 million, by the confiscated proceeds of crime. I find that extremely pleasing, and hope that future criminals appreciate the irony as they are remanded and interviewed in premises “sponsored” by their criminal confrères.