Money laundering in Kenya
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How Kenya’s “Wash Wash” Business Works

They hang out at some of the most expensive clubs drinking only the most expensive bottles, and gorgeous women constantly surround them. Of course, where there is money, there will always be beautiful women, “but what does he do for a living?” “Oooh, kumbe huyo msee ni wa wash wash.”

With the recent exposure of big people involved in the wash wash business by Edgar Obare, many people are asking, what is a wash wash business?

The business of wash wash

Most people believe that wash wash is about dealing with counterfeit money, but that is merely the tip of the iceberg; there are numerous definitions of wash wash, but you only need to know one to comprehend it: wash wash is Brainwashing.

Wash Wash, make people believe that you have money, dress nicely, and don’t be afraid to spend the little that you have for something more significant is always the first step, the first formula that one needs to learn to apply to succeed in using Wash Wash, make people believe that you have money.

There are many different types of Wash Wash, but I’ll focus on a handful of the most frequent ones.

1. The Scam of Fake Money

This is the most prevalent sort of wash wash, and it mainly targets university students and young people who are desperate for large sums of money, such as hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars.

You run into an old age mate from a past life who appears to be living the high life, clothing well and even driving, while you, a first or second-year student, are suffering from college life, so you ask him what his secret to success is, and he murmurs.

“Msee hii maisha ni kuwa mjanja, mimi huosha pesa Bro,” says the narrator. So you’re inquisitive and ask him how you may start a business; he tells you that you’ll need supplies for that type of business, and those goods cost money; your curiosity gets the best of you, and he continues to explain.

To begin, you’ll need money, materials, and chemicals. You can buy a hundred thousand pieces of material for Ksh10,000, Ksh200,000 for Ksh20,000, and so on. You’re paying attention and visualizing how you can get rich quickly at this point.

He then tells you that he will introduce you to the Stuff Guy and then the Chemical Guy and that all you have to do now is provide the money for the material. You’re pleased when he departs, and you start hustling for the money.

Chain of friends

You’re able to raise Ksh10,000, so you call him and tell him. He introduces you to another showy friend, who hands you Ksh 100,000 notes in the shape of materials.

Now they tell you that those black notes are materials that require chemicals to convert them into real money and that you’ll need about Ksh15,000 to buy the chemical, which they’re suggesting you buy from an Indian guy. You’re intrigued, but since you don’t have Ksh15,000, what do you do? You either sell that laptop that your parents worked so hard to buy so that you can study, or you sell that laptop that your parents worked so hard to purchase so that you can learn.

You hustle and run till you get Ksh15,000, which you then give to your friend, who then introduces you to another guy who deals with the Indian who sells the chemicals, and the guy sends you the chemicals, putting you on your path to becoming Ksh 100,000.

They then take you to a room, most likely somewhere safe, and demonstrate how to change false money” black notes” to real ones using chemicals. They combine the chemical with water first, then place the item inside and dry it.

Typically, the scenario goes like this:

However, the cash produced is weak and easily tears off. They then mix again, placing an original 1000 note in the middle of two fake notes, wrapping it, and applying pressure for about five minutes. The chemical guy then tells you that the material is too strong for the chemical, and the chemical will not produce actual money, which is why the first material was weak.

At this point, they unwrap the tissue, wash it off with chemical water, and voila, you get two thousand shillings plus the original, for a total of three thousand shillings. You’re willing to go to any length at this point.

Now you need to find Ksh 50,000 to reinforce the phoney Ksh97,000 you have in your possession and make it legal. This is where most students or youngsters decide to go to whatever length to make it legal. Fees, my friend, are an option. You choose to take your entire semester fee and your Helb loan to the Wash Wash guy, who will then repeat the process by mixing the chemical with water and soaking the material.

They will ask you to buy essential vitamin C, foil paper, and rubber bands to fool you. They will then remove the fake material, take your original Ksh50,000, and place a thousand in the middle of each two thousand counterfeit material notes in the name of strengthening the fake. Finally, they will crush the vitamin C and sprinkle it on the bundle of money before wrapping it in foil.

No money

You open your package after 10 hours to find black papers and no money. You phone your guy, who asks you some dumb questions like, “did you expose it to heat?” Are you sure you used the correct amount of pressure? “Msee niliweka hadi kabati juu yake!” you exclaim.

He then requests that you and the product meet at a remote location, where he arrives alone and informs you that you must have done something wrong because the Ksh50,000 has disintegrated with the false money and that you would require another chemical to revive it.

You’re still sceptical, but your friend persuades you that it’s feasible. When you ask how much it’ll cost, he says Ksh50,000, but he’ll cover the rest with Ksh25,000, so all you have to do now is find Ksh 25,000, and he also tells you that the revival process will return the Ksh97,000 as well.

Back to tarmacking

Now you’re back tarmacking for Ksh25,000, and after weeks of hustling, you finally get it. After selling virtually everything, and you’re in debt, but your hopes are in the fruit you’ll reap, so you’ll take the money to your friend.

You’ve worked so hard, now you return the cash to your friend, who purchases the chemical and begins the process, but while you’re doing so, police agents raid your hideout and capture both you and your friend.

That time you are shaken up, and when you’re taken to the police and accused of possessing counterfeit money, they tell you that you need to produce a bribe of Ksh 200,000. At this point, you have no choice but to involve your family in a humiliating process.

You have no idea that it’s all a set-up by your friend, who is working with corrupt cops. That, my buddy, is one type of wash wash.

2.The “Wash Wash” Tender Scam

Politicians and their proxies are primarily responsible for this. A tender notice/advertisement is published in the local newspaper, and you, as an ambitious tenderpreneur, are quick to notice it.

You submit your application by emailing the required documents, including your certificate of incorporation, prequalification documentation, and KRA pins. After a few weeks, you receive a call instructing you to go to one of the government offices to see person A and B.

The person requests your bank statement and, after a brief conversation, asks for a bribe in the form of a present to grant you the tender. Knowing that the agreement will profit you greatly, you decide to bribe the “officials.”

After a few days or even a week, you will receive an award letter and an LPO of the items you must supply to the government. Now that the ball is in your court, you must hustle to find a means to meet your obligations.

Most government tenders are in the billions of dollars, and you take out loans to borrow money, but you eventually place an order for the equipment. Little do you know, the officials mentioned above have been keeping an eye on you and have suggested that they will come and pick it up themselves when you are ready to deliver.

When the deal is too good…

You get the impression that they’ve even saved you money on transportation. The guys show up at your house in government vehicles, complete with government stamps, seals, and documents, and are sometimes escorted by police officers. You present them with your invoice/delivery receipt, which they sign and leave, telling you to expect payment in two weeks. You call them after two weeks, and they ask you to follow up because payment has been delayed. This game will continue until you decide to visit the office, only to discover that no such persons exist and that no such tender was ever made, and that all of the equipment you supplied, as well as the bribe you paid out, has vanished into thin air.

You instantly notify the DCI, but in Kenya, justice is scarce, and if they are apprehended, the proceedings will drag on in court indefinitely.

Many Kenyans have fallen victim to this con, which often results in sadness and even suicide, yet the culprits always get away with it.

3. The Scam of Gold Wash

This is possibly the most difficult of them; this form of “Wash Wash” has claimed the lives of presidents and kings. The players are untouchable, the sums at stake exceed Ksh 500 million, and the people targeted are primarily foreigners.

These con artists offer fictitious gold to Arabs and Russians who have dirty money to clean and launder by purchasing pricey access.

Photo Courtesy

It’s a ring that includes powerful politicians, immigration officials, cops, and showy businesspeople and bankers. The client’s first request will be to see proof of the gold; don’t worry, that’s taken care of; they already have a guy in the asset depository area who will supply all of the appropriate documentation to prove the gold’s existence.

The man will next be enticed into the country to witness the gold in person. They will pick him up in luxury automobiles, most likely rented from car bazaars, and transport him to a very luxurious hotel merely to make the customer feel protected. Remember, a flashy lifestyle is everything.

They will accompany him to the bank the next day when he will see the documents and the actual gold in the safe. He will then contact a specialist of his choice to check the gold’s authenticity after being guaranteed that it is 100 per cent authentic.

The delays of the gold scam

The client will be satisfied and make a 50% deposit of the total amount of perhaps Ksh 500 million, after which he will return to his home country and await the shipment. He will then be informed that the load has experienced some delays and that about Ksh 80 million is required to bribe airport officials and facilitate the use of a private charter to transport the merchandise.

The client will become suspicious because he has already paid over Ksh 300 million, and they are still demanding more; this is where the politician comes in; he will travel to the client’s country, meet with him, and persuade him to pay the remaining Ksh 200 million and he will receive the merchandise in less than a week, which will not happen. When the customer realizes he’s been duped, he’ll fly into the country and submit an official complaint with the authorities, which means he’ll have to bribe them to get justice quickly.

The contact person will be arrested and arraigned in court, with a hearing date set for 4-5 months later. Because the client is a foreigner, he will return to his home after four months. By this point, the contact guy will have been released on a Ksh 500,000 bail.

The customer returns after four months, and what he finds this time is the biggest shock of his life. Around 11 a.m., the court session will begin. The man will be detained at the immigration offices for lack of documentation and subjected to rounds until 6 p.m. He will fail to appear in court, and the case will be dismissed. Judges dislike it when plaintiffs fail to appear in court, wasting the court’s time.