Carrying This Amount of Money Can Give You 14 Years in Jail

  • Notes of Kenya Shilling
    Notes of Kenya Shilling
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  • Are you thinking about crossing your neigbourhood with hard cash stashed in a briefcase or a backpack? Well, that could land you in trouble.

    On October 20, 2021, President Uhuru Kenyatta unleashed new restrictive measures to regulate cash movement within the economy, aimed at combating money laundering activities.

    According to the Money Laundering Act, it is a crime to possess hard cash in excess of Ksh1 million.

    However, it is common place to find Kenyans - especially politicians during campaign rallies - to move around with millions of shillings in cash.

    A Picture of a hand holding Kenyan notes.
    A hand holding money Source: Facebook.

    The debate on how much one can have in cash reignited last month after former KISS 100 radio presenter and Lang'ata parliamentary candidate, Felix Odiwuor alias Jalang'o, accused his workers of stealing money from him and ran away.

    Although the MP hopeful stated that the amount was over Ksh1 million, sources close to him and privy to the matter intimated that the comedian turned politician lost around Ksh5 million.

    Holding such amounts of money in cash, be it at home or for business transactions, is outlawed by the Money Laundering Act.

    Imprisonment for money laundering offence in Kenya is capped at a term not exceeding 14 years, or a fine of between Ksh5 million to Ksh25 million.

    Kenya is also seeking powers from the National Assembly to seize property of suspects caught in money laundering syndicates.

    The state-backed Proceeds of Crime and Anti-Money Laundering (Amendment) Bill, 2021 seeks to enable Financial Reporting Centre (FRC) and other security agencies to stop criminal activities before they occur.

    Amendments will give FRC authority to stop the transactions for not more than five working days and allow other state agencies to investigate them.

    “The Centre [FRC] may, for purposes of achieving the objectives of the Act, direct the reporting institution or person, in writing not to proceed with the transaction or proposed transaction or any other transaction in respect of the funds or property affected by that transaction or proposed transaction,” reads the Bill.

    A report tabled before the United States Congress on March 9 last year exposed Kenya’s vulnerability to money laundering, financial fraud and terrorism financing.

    It is because of this that the President directed the National Treasury and related stakeholders to raise the threshold for the reporting of cash transactions of above Ksh1 million with FRC effective November 1, 2021, even as financial institutions will retain their reporting obligations with the FRC.

    The move is aimed at implementing Anti-Money Laundering/Combating the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) controls by the government.

    Kenya is also seeking an amendment to the law which will see changes to how much a foreigner can have in the country.

    The current investment threshold by law requires a foreigner to have at least Ksh10 million. This applies before he/she can think about setting up a business no matter how small.

    Interior Cabinet Secretary, Fred Matiang'i, while appearing before National Assembly’s Committee on Administration and National Security on August 13 last year, hinted at tightening how much a foreigners can have in the country through parliamentary approval.

    “That’s how some people can come in including money launderers and engage in ‘wash-wash’ (informal language for black money) and then masquerade around as business dealers,” Matiang'i noted then.

    Drugs and money confiscated following an operation in Kenya.
    Drugs and money confiscated following an operation in Kenya.
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