What you need to know:
- Police have seized at least Sh50 billion worth of fake currency in foreign denominations, mostly dollars, based on media accounts alone since the beginning of the year.
- This makes it difficult to know how much fake currency could be out there. But experts say it should be a cause of concern for Kenyans.
Is there an upsurge in the supply of fake gold and currency in Nairobi or are recent seizures merely a sign that police have intensified their war on the criminal syndicates responsible?
This is the question Kenyans are pondering after the arrest of eight people on Tuesday in connection with the trade in fake gold and currency. This brought to 18 the number of people apprehended since the year started.
The new arrests in Karen in the early morning came just 17 hours after six people were rounded up in Kilimani.
In the latter incident, officers from the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) seized over 50kg of suspected fake gold nuggets from a house on Lenana Road.
“Detectives acting on information have today arrested four Rwandan nationals — Niyitegeka Seveun, Dushimirimana Egide, Zilimwabagabu Jacques, Ngaragura Emmanuel — and two Kenyans, Grace Wairimu and Erascos Katiku,” said the DCI on its Twitter page.
“I want to believe as a service it is within our limits to crush any fake gold or cash syndicates that come up,” says police spokesman Charles Owino.
Sources in security circles told the Nation that a change of guard at the Serious Crimes Prevention Unit could be one of the reasons police have mounted a serious war on the syndicates that have threatened to turn Kenya into a fraud capital.
On Tuesday morning, DCI officers seized 100kg of fake gold and millions of in fake US dollars and Zambian kwachas.
“Four foreigners — one Congolese, two Tanzanians, one Nigerian — and four Kenyans were arrested,” said the DCI.
In total, police have seized at least Sh50 billion worth of fake currency in foreign denominations, mostly dollars, based on media accounts alone since the beginning of the year.
The figure could be higher because only huge busts are reported in the media.
The Central Bank of Kenya, the custodian of Kenyan currency, does not usually comment on cases involving counterfeit foreign currency.
This makes it difficult to know how much fake currency could be out there. But experts say it should be a cause of concern for Kenyans.
“I can’t see the fake foreign currency having an impact on the economy because the institutions that deal with forex have got very good mechanisms of finding out if money is real or fake,” said Mr Robert Shaw, a public policy and economic analyst.
“However, because we are in a country with forex exchange liberalisation, Kenyans should be very vigilant. We had the same issue with fake Sh1,000 notes, but we are seeing a pattern now with fake dollars,” he says.
More than a dozen cases have been filed in court this year involving people accused of conning foreigners by pretending to be in a position to sell them gold.
The amounts they have been defrauded of range from Sh1 million to over the Sh100 million reported last week.
Ms Consolata Achieng, Mr Washington Libese and Mr Enock Mugwana were charged last Monday with illegally obtaining $1,059,000 (Sh100 million) from Mr Kavalenko Henneddi, a Ukrainian.
The three were arrested in Kileleshwa after their victim grew suspicious and reported the matter to police.
On the same day, Mr Benjamin Onyango Oguok was brought before a magistrate and charged with obtaining Sh2 million from Mr Sam Kazal, a British citizen, by pretending he could sell him 3kg of gold.
He denied the charge and was released on cash bail of Sh500,000.