Kenyan pleads guilty to Sh30bn Covid funds fraud in US, loses multi-million Nairobi, Diani properties
In the film The Laundromat, a number of vices, including wealth hidden behind front companies, no-name trusts and offshore financial structures, are exposed.
A law firm known as Mossack Fonseca creates a complex web of offshore entities using lies and deception, illegally accessing billions.
However, as the firm strove to make more cash, it left behind leaks that exposed how fragile and unstable the deals were, making it easy for investigators to notice a money laundering method that involved the setting up of offshore companies and moving cash across continents.
Just like in the movie, investigators drawn from the Federal of Bureau Investigations (FBI), Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Criminal Investigations and the US Postal Inspection Service picked up leaks from a scheme that saw the US government lose Sh30.8 billion in Covid-19 funds, exposing 47 individuals and the properties they purchased across the world.
Already, Mr Liban Yasin Alishire, 43, has pleaded guilty and entered into an agreement to forfeit several properties he acquired across the globe, including a multi-million resort in Diani and prime properties in Nairobi. Others include a boat and trailer, a pick-up and Sh87.7 million Kenya shillings.
He pleaded guilty on Tuesday evening before Judge Nancy Brasel to one count of wire fraud and one count of money laundering.
Court documents show that Alishire enrolled Community Enhancement Services and Lake Street Kitchen into the Federal Child Nutrition Program as purported sites providing meals to underprivileged children under the sponsorship of Feeding Our Future.
Soon after enrolling the entities, he began submitting fraudulent claims for reimbursement for serving meals to thousands of children a day. He further falsified invoices to document the purchase of food and its preparation and submitted falsified rosters with names of children who received meals.
Alishire also operated Ace Distribution Services, which purported to provide meals to be served to children at the Community Enhancement Services site. In total, Community Enhancement Services claimed to have served over 800,000 meals between February and October 2021, while Lake Street Kitchen claimed to have served over 70,000 meals between December 2020 and April 2021.
In truth, the two organisations served a fraction of the meals amounts claimed but received over Sh124 million. Alishire caused the transfer of much of this money to himself and others via shell companies.
Through a shell company, Hoodo Properties, Alishire controlled and laundered proceeds from the fraud scheme. On or about November 22, 2021, for example, he transferred Sh26.6 million from Hoodo Properties to Jaafar Jelle & Co towards the purchase of property at Karibu Palms Resort in Diani.
In total, Alishire fraudulently claimed approximately Sh300 million in Federal Child Nutrition Program funds, of which Feeding Our Future paid out Sh220 million to the defendant and his co-conspirators.
His co-conspirators included Abdiaziz Shafii Farah, Mohamed Jama Ismail, Mohamed Ibrahim, Abdimajid Mohamed Nur, Said Shaffi Farah, Abdiwahab Maalim Aftin, Mukhtar Mohammed Shariff, Hayat Mohamed Nur, Ahmed Yasi and Khadar Jigre Adan, who were based in Minnesota.
30 sites opened
The suspects are believed to have opened at least 30 sites using shell companies.
Other key suspects in court who had invested the ill-gotten cash in Kenya are Mr Abdiaziz Shafii Farah and Abdiwahab Maalim Aftin.
Court documents show that the two used two companies, Empire Enterprises and Bushra Wholesalers, to wire money to Capital View Properties Limited based in Nairobi.
Details of Empire Enterprises company could not be found, while the Nation established that Bushra is owned by Abdiwahab Aftin and Said Farah. It was started on February 10, 2021.
In the first transaction, they wired Sh24.28 million from Empire Enterprises to Capital View to purchase properties in South B and South C. On May 11, 2022, they wired another Sh36.42 million Capital View.
Six days later, on May 17, 2021, Abdiwahab wired Sh24.28 million from Bushra Wholesalers to Capital View for the property purchase.
This was barely a day after Sh12 million from Empire Cusine and Market was deposited by Said to Bushra. On June 1, 2021, Sh24.28 million from Empire Enterprises was wired to Capital View.
When the Nation tried to contact Capital View, they did not respond to our messages or phone calls.