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Savage attack on pounds 21m deal; Kenyans to hunt `shadowy firm' directors.

Byline: MARK HOOKHAM

THE UK High Commissioner to Kenya has delivered a scathing attack on a firm whose Liverpool office is at the heart of an alleged financial scandal.

Edward Clay has offered to help Kenyan investigators track down the directors of Anglo-Leasing and Finance.

Last week, Kenyan MPs published an audit report into a pounds 21m passport deal between the Kenyan government and the company, which has an office in Upper Parliament Street, Toxteth.

The report recommended that three high-ranking Kenyan civil servants who are suspended be banned from holding public office following their involvement in the deal with the firm.

Last month the Daily Post revealed how investigators were trying to discover how the firm was able to secure the pounds 21m contract to provide new terrorism-proof passports when nobody outside senior government circles knew the work was being offered.

And Kenyan politicians have launched a second investigation into a pounds 29m contract to supply three forensic laboratories.

MPs on the Kenyan Parliament's Public Accounts Committee heard how Anglo-Leasing had been paid pounds 1, 499, 754 but had only supplied architectural drawings.

Both contracts have now been cancelled and Anglo-Leasing has paid back the money it had received from the Kenyan government.

In a speech to UK businessmen, the High Commissioner described Anglo-Leasing as a ``shadowy company''.

He said: ``Let us look at the first of the two notorious contracts with Anglo-Leasing and Finance, a shadowy company with links to an address in Liverpool, with links to Kenyans, not registered in either Britain or Switzerland, incapable of commissioning a garden shed and discovered never to have delivered anything more than drawings more or less on the back of an envelope. ''

Meanwhile, the Daily Post has discovered the identity of the managing director of the mysterious firm.

A solicitor based in Switzerland confirmed businessman Michel Gruring, from Lausanne, is the head of the company.

But his spokesman, Eric Ramel, refused to reveal the company's other directors and said the company is registered ``somewhere on an exotic island''.

Last week the Kenyan parliament's public accounts committee published a special audit report into the deal which said the three officials should be held responsible for attempting to defraud the government.

Civil servants Joseph Oyula, Joseph Magari and Sylvester Mwaliko have now been black-listed by the government.

The committee condemned Mwaliko, the Permanent Secretary in Home Affairs, for failing to conduct any background checks into the firm.

Their report said: ``This made it impossible for the government to find the shareholders and directors of Anglo Leasing Company. The committee concluded that the Permanent Secretary was an interested party in the whole project. ''

Anglo-Leasing stated it intended to sub-contract the work to systems firm Franco is -Charles Obether Fiduciare. The French company has denied any wrong doing.

Kenyan parliament records have shown the passport deal was signed on behalf of Anglo-Leasing by Colin Flynn, an accountant from West Derby, Liverpool.

Solicitors for Mr Flynnhave denied he was involved in the deal and said he is not linked to Anglo-Leasing.

City centre solicitors Powell Forman Kelly said Anglo-Leasing is a Swiss firm which conducts its English-speaking work in Liverpool.

This week, they revealed the company's managing director is Michel Gruring and was represented by Lausanne solicitor Eric Ramel.

Mr Ramel was unaware of the Foreign Office's offer to help the Kenyan government and said it was ``usual'' for the directors in a deal of this kind to not be named.

He said: ``Mr Gruring is a director of Anglo-Leasing, an offshore company. As is usual in this business, the investors or real owners of the company do not want to be named. ''

He said the company had won the passport contract after being part of a competitive tender.

``As far as I have seen, there has been a real tender and there has been different competitors and Anglo had the most effective out of the four or five competitors.

``What we can say is that the two projects were cancelled because of adverse publicity and the land that was supposed to support one of the projects was not appropriate. ''
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Jul 15, 2004
Words:685
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