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KENYA: French Company Backs Out of Crucial Meeting With KACC

by Joseph MurimiThe East African Standard (Nairobi)
May 27th, 2006

The French company at the centre of the Sh7 billion Anglo Leasing Finance scandals has refused to meet the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission (KACC), throwing into disarray investigations into the scam.

French Ambassador to Kenya Hubert Fournier said Francois Charles Oberthur Fiduciaire (FCOF) directors defied their own Government, which had arranged a meeting in the French capital of Paris.

The directors, he said, claimed they had already given Kacc enough information.

The ambassador advised Kacc to seek other ways, like a court order in France, to force FCOF to give the information that is needed in Kenya. Fournier, however, said Kacc had not requested for his Government's assistance in this regard. He denied that France was part of the scheme to protect the directors of FCOF or any other individuals implicated in corruption from being questioned by Kacc.

He said it was important for anti-corruption crusaders to differentiate between a country and a private company.

"Our stand on corruption is very clear. We are committed to helping Kenya fight corruption in the best way we can," he said.

The latest development has put the probe into the multi-billion shillings scandal, which led to the resignation of three Cabinet ministers, on a rocky stretch

Fournier told of how his Government pleaded with FCOF to co-operate with Kacc investigators but to no avail. "We told them that it was very important for them to meet Kacc but they still cancelled the meeting," Fournier said.

He said after the failed meeting he advised Kacc to get a court order to force the company to divulge the required information.

Fournier said he briefed Kacc director Justice Aaron Ringera on the aborted meeting and the efforts his Government had put.

But he cautioned that the judicial process would be lengthy and time consuming. He said he is yet to get any feedback from Kacc on how far they have gone in seeking the court order.

Recently, Kacc said it had been unable to question at least 75 witnesses abroad.

Kacc Deputy Director, Fatuma Sichale, said the commission was unable to complete investigations into the scandal due to factors beyond its control.

Sichale said Kacc officials had travelled to Paris on two occasions but were unable to question the FCOF directors. She said it was not possible for Kacc to give a timeline on when the investigations would be complete because of the obstacles it was facing.

She said Kacc did not also want to engage in prosecutions in instalments and would prefer to charge suspects when investigations were complete.

Fournier said the France Embassy and his Government were doing all they could to help unmask the Anglo-Leasing ghosts. He said France remains very committed to help Kenya to unravel the mystery.

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