MPs banned from US over Charterhouse

File | Nation
Finance committee chairman Chris Okemo (right) and his deputy Philip Kaloki during a hearing on the Charterhouse affair in October.

The US has slapped a blanket ban on up to 11 MPs who are members of the House Finance, Trade and Planning Committee.

The ban comes hot on the heels of a report the committee tabled — and which was passed in Parliament — that cleared Charterhouse Bank and called for its re-opening.

The Sunday Nation learned on Saturday that one of the MPs was turned back at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi when he attempted to travel to the US about three weeks ago. 

A US State Department official who spoke on condition of anonymity could not confirm or deny the incident, stating that they do not discuss individual cases with the media.

In Nairobi, the US ambassador to Kenya Michael Ranneberger could also not be drawn into the matter.

“I don’t know,” was Mr Ranneberger’s response when the Sunday Nation telephoned him.

“Where did you get the information? I am not going to comment on that,” the ambassador said.

The affected MPs are believed to be members of the House Finance, Trade and Planning Committee that has been investigating the Charterhouse Bank affair.

Gem MP Jakoyo Midiwo, a member of the committee, confirmed yesterday that he was aware that “up to six MPs have had their visas revoked.”

“I am aware one of us was denied a visa to the US about one to two weeks ago,” the MP said.

Two weeks ago, they tabled their report that said that Charterhouse Bank be reopened.

Mr Ranneberger has insisted that the bank should remain closed and be investigated for money laundering.

The Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission director Patrick Lumumba has also said the anti-graft agency has additional, but not necessarily new, information on the bank, which it has used to re-open the file on its investigation.

Prof Lumumba spoke when he appeared before the committee chaired by Nambale MP Chris Okemo in October.

He said it would be necessary for the bank to remain closed so that investigations are not interfered with and chances of evidence being hidden are reduced.

“It is safer to keep the bank closed… it would be neater that way,” said Dr Lumumba at the committee’s hearings over the bank closed in June 2006.

However, Mr Midiwo retorted that it would be wrong for the KACC boss to vouch for the bank’s closure despite the fact it has gone beyond the period stipulated in the Banking Act, which is one year, and a provision to extend by another.

“You know there have been previous attempts to disband your commission, but we have refused them. We need you and we can only keep you if you keep acting within the law,” said Mr Midiwo back then.

Kibwezi MP Philip Kaloki, also a member of the committee, said the particular member was actually turned back at the airport when he tried to board a flight to the US.

The US policy usually requires informing and furnishing airlines with details of people banned from their country. 

Mr Midiwo, the coalition government’s chief whip, said he was yet to receive any communication from the US embassy.

“I have heard something to that effect (visa revocation) but I have not got any communication on the same myself,” he said. He added that he was least bothered about the US visa. “My conscience is clear and I am least worried because I have not stolen anything from Kenyans or America,” the Gem legislator said.

When contacted, Mr Okemo who is on a trip to the United Kingdom, said he was yet to receive a letter informing him of the decision banning him from travelling to the US.

“If the embassy has anything then I will probably get it when I come back,” said the Nambale MP without giving any indication when he would be back.

Yatta MP Charles Kilonzo, another member of the committee, who had presented a petition to Parliament to have the bank reopened on behalf of some 35 depositors, yesterday said he was aware the US government had made a move to deny the entire membership of the committee visas.

“I am told that the entire finance committee has been slapped with the ban,” the legislator said.

Like his colleagues, he was defiant that the ban was no big deal to him.

“Ranneberger should stop thinking he can arm-twist Kenyan leaders to sing the American tune,” Mr Kilonzo who says he has never been to the US in his entire 45 years charged.

Additional reporting by Kevin J. Kelley and Bob Odalo

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