, NAIROBI, Kenya, May 23- The government has been challenged to conduct thorough investigations into claims that proceeds of piracy were being invested in Nairobi’s Eastleigh estate.
Eastleigh Business District Association Acting Chairman Hussein Hajji argued on Sunday that the government should use its vast machinery and resources to put to rest the issue which is tarnishing the image of law abiding traders in the area.
“The government can use its intelligence to get sources who can give it information on such an issue. If it did that, we could have had people who have been prosecuted or taken to court for piracy,” the chairman said.
Pirates operating off the coast of Somalia have over the last two years invaded the Gulf of Aden where they hijack vessels and demand huge ransoms from shipping lines. In 2009, they are believed to have raked in $90 million with most of the cash finding its way into Kenya.
Reports have been rife that pirates are exploiting the lax regulatory framework and the high corruption in Kenya to buy properties in the country. The country has at the same time received inflows from foreigners who are buying assets such as buildings and land and this has in effect pushed up the prices of many properties and rental houses.
On its part, the government has said it does not have the statistics of which foreigners are investing in the country or where they are putting their money.
Mr Hajji however denied any knowledge of money laundering saying most of the properties in EastLeigh were owned by Kenyan Somalis and not by pirates as it has been claimed.
While he acknowledged that there are a few foreigners doing business there, he said most of them were there legally and with proper documentation.
The Association’s member Abdullahi Shariff said claims that pirates are laundering money in Eastleigh were unfair since the area has always been a vibrant business hub.
“I’m surprised how the story of pirates can be linked to Eastleigh so easily when piracy is so recent and Eastleigh has been growing over the years and the Somalis are a very enterprising community,” he said.
Mr Shariif said instead of victimising them, the government should ensure the provision of the necessary infrastructure and amenities in the area that would enable the traders to be competitive.