The Horn Examiner investigation reveals how illicit funds from Somalia are finding their way into Nairobi’s real estate market, reshaping the city’s skyline and raising concerns about the origins of the funds.
With a weak government and a long-standing struggle against corruption, Somalia has become a fertile ground for unscrupulous actors to siphon off public funds and international aid, undermining development efforts and exacerbating poverty.
The embezzlement and misappropriation of funds have reached such alarming proportions that neighboring countries, like Kenya are now grappling with the consequences.
As Somalia’s corruption network spreads its tentacles beyond borders, Nairobi’s property market has become an attractive destination for the illicit money.
According to regional experts, the Somali investors seeking to conceal their questionable wealth are flocking to Nairobi, where lax regulations and an under-resourced enforcement system inadvertently facilitate their ambitions.
High-end properties and luxury apartments are the favored choices for those seeking to launder money from Somalia.
These transactions are often complex, employing a web of shell companies and offshore accounts, making it increasingly challenging for authorities to track the illicit flow of funds.
Real estate experts in Nairobi have observed a sudden influx of buyers from Somalia, displaying an unusual willingness to pay inflated prices without much negotiations.
This phenomenon has, in turn, driven up property values in the city, causing concerns among local residents about housing affordability and the potential impact on the rental market.
In light of this, authorities in Kenya are faced with an uphill battle in combating this cross-border corruption. Lacking any cooperation from their Somali counterparts, Kenyan authorities say they are left to deal with the task to dismantle money laundering networks alone. But despite the fact that the Kenyan capital remains the key beneficiary from this graft trend from Somalia, they vowed they would continue to do their best to stem the tide of illicit funds flowing into Nairobi’s property market.
The sudden wave of foreign buyers, nearly all of which are from neighbouring Somalia has caused a dramatic spike in property values, increasing them by almost 50% and leaving local residents and prospective homeowners stunned.
Among the influx of newcomers are Members of the Somali Parliament and senior leaders of the government who have set their sights on the Nairobi’s real estate market, bringing with them immense wealth obtained from the recent controversial Somali elections held last year.
The elections, marred by allegations of corruption, manipulation and vote-buying, saw hundreds of Parliamentarians reportedly exchanging their votes for cash.
According to officials who spoke to the Horn Examiner, one MP allegedly received an astonishing sum of $330,000 from 6 candidates vying for the Presidency. The financial contributions were labeled as vote-buying bribery money, with all transactions occurring on the night before the election day.
Opting for Nairobi as their destination to invest in real estate, the Somali investors like MPs have been seizing opportunities in the bustling city’s property market, leaving a profound impact on its landscape.
Since assuming office, Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud had faced accusations of awarding a significant portion of state contracts to his allies and relatives, effectively eliminating fair bidding opportunities.
The concerns raised by experts are not to be taken lightly, as they point out that such practices have led to an alarming increase in cash smuggling into Nairobi by air.
Multiple sources within the Somalia’s financial sector have revealed that high-ranking officials and politically-connected elites in Somalia are channeling millions of dollars into Kenya’s real estate industry.
In some instances, ill-gotten wealth is then laundered through various intricate networks, blurring the origins and enabling its use to acquire prime properties in Nairobi.
The sudden surge has also sparked debates about foreign ownership and the potential implications for local residents and the overall housing market.
City officials say that they are assessing potential measures to take to ensure a fair and balanced market, while maintaining Nairobi’s reputation as a regional financial and global economic hub.
Once considered relatively stable, the bustling Kenyan capital’s property market is now witnessing an influx of new Somali-owned shell companies dealing in real estate, creating a fast-paced and competitive environment.
Approximately two years ago, properties in most of Nairobi neighborhoods were available at affordable rates. However, the situation has taken a sharp turn, with real estate prices soaring by nearly half.
The sudden jump in demand can be attributed to the increasing number of Somali buyers, mostly officials from the Somali Government who are actively investing in the Kenyan market.
While the infusion of capital undoubtedly has its benefits for the real estate market, there are growing concerns about affordability and housing accessibility for the local residents.
With the property prices soaring to new heights, many worry about the potential displacement of lower-income families and individuals from Nairobi.
THE NEW METHODS
Somali buyers approach property acquisition through two main avenues.
Firstly, they opt for agencies that expertly manage their purchases often conducted through long-term investment plans.
Alternatively, some buyers opt for traditional methods, directly acquiring properties and registering them under their family members’ and close associates’ names.
Some of these properties are later sold at higher interest rates, contributing to the dynamic nature of the market.
According to officials at the Kenyan Revenue Authority, an astonishing 90 to 100 percent of recent property purchasers in Nairobi are of Somali origin. They say that this trend is not limited to property purchases alone, but Somalis also constitute the majority of the city’s rental sector.
Meanwhile, the influx of the Somali property buyers has caused a fascinating shift in dynamics within Nairobi’s real estate market, with experts and local officials say they are closely monitoring the situation, anticipating further developments that could potentially impact both the local and international property landscape. That has left foreign investors, homeowners and authorities making assessments over the potential long-term effects it could have on the market’s stability and growth.
Meanwhile, a newly released information from Kenyan officials indicates that a significant proportion of the latest property investors are senior Somali Government officials who are seeking to invest the revenues generated from Khat imports in Somalia.
The Horn Examiner has established that the tax revenues from Khat imports in Somalia, amounting to over five million dollars a month, are primarily collected in the form of mobile money. These funds are then converted into cash and smuggled into Nairobi by air, bypassing the Kenyan revenue authorities.
That has caught the attention of authorities, leading experts to consider it a case of tax evasion amid questions about the legality and transparency of the investment inflow.
Source: The Horn Examinar