March 20, 2019 / 6:59 AM / 9 months ago

Kenyan police seize $20 million of counterfeit banknotes from deposit box

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Kenyan police have seized $20 million (£15 million) of counterfeit banknotes that had been stored in a personal safety deposit box at a branch of Barclays Bank Kenya, the directorate of criminal investigations said.

A Kenyan police officer escorts suspects, after fake currency was seized in a personal safety deposit box at the Queensway branch of Barclays Bank Kenya, in downtown Nairobi, Kenya, March 19, 2019. REUTERS/Njeri Mwangi

Police had also arrested six people, including two of the bank’s staff, the directorate said late on Tuesday in a statement posted on its Twitter account.

“Six people were arrested today evening by ... detectives in connection with fake currency amounting to slightly over $20 million (at Barclays Kenya) Queensway Branch,” the statement said.

“The fake notes in $100 denominations were recovered from the bank’s safe room.”

A Reuters witness saw a crowd gathered outside the branch on Tuesday, shouting angrily and demanding officers reveal their identities.

Barclays Kenya, part of South Africa’s Absa Group, confirmed on Tuesday that police had seized fake currency from a customer’s deposit box, and said it was not the bank’s money and that it was cooperating with the investigation.

“The customer had concealed fake currency in his personal safe deposit box against the bank’s rules and regulations which include restrictions of items which can be held in the safe deposit box,” it said in a statement.

The seizure comes at a time when lawmakers are pushing for implementation of amendments to banking laws that would relax the rigorous requirements for recording transactions above $10,000.

The central bank has said the changes could undermine efforts to tackle money laundering, financing of terrorism and proceeds from crime.

A court case challenging the implementation of the amendments is due to be heard on March 29.

Reporting by George Obulutsa and Humphrey Malalo; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore

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