KACC targets more graft link ministers

The Kenya Anti-corruption Commission (KACC) headquarters. On Thursday, the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission announced it had written to three foreign governments seeking their assistance in tracing the billions held abroad by Kenyan corruption suspects. Photo/FILE

Fresh investigations have been launched into Kenya’s two biggest scandals — Anglo Leasing and Goldenberg — in a new anti-corruption drive.

The two scandals could have cost the taxpayer some Sh100 billion in over-invoiced contracts, phantom deliveries and outright theft.

New investigations target money stashed in foreign accounts, believed to be about Sh15 billion, part of which may have been proceeds from the two scandals.

The revelations came a day after former Foreign Affairs minister Moses Wetang’ula and his permanent secretary, Mr Thuita Mwangi, resigned to pave way for investigations into the possible loss of Sh1.1 billion in the purchase of embassy buildings in Tokyo Japan.

On Thursday, the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission announced it had written to three foreign governments seeking their assistance in tracing the billions held abroad by Kenyan corruption suspects.

The letters went out to the government of the United States, Swiss authorities and UK’s Serious Fraud Office, said agency spokesman Nicholas Simani.

Had ceased investigations

In the past, the Serious Fraud Office said it had ceased investigations into the scandal after Kenya proved uncooperative. The Anglo Leasing-type scandals involved contracts with a value of Sh18 billion.

Investigations follow a July court ruling that allowed the commission to seek foreign help in a bid to trace the billions banked abroad.

A High Court ruling three years ago had barred the commission from seeking foreign help to unravel the puzzle that is the Anglo Leasing scandal.

Mercantile Securities Corporation, one of the firms mentioned in the scandal, went to court in June, 2007, to challenge the graft watchdog’s request for legal help from Swiss authorities.

The case was prompted by a letter written by then anti-corruption director Aaron Ringera to the Swiss government seeking assistance to unmask the identities of the real owners of the firm that received Sh914 million for communication equipment that was never delivered.

The commission also sought to know the Kenyan officials involved in the deal. But on July 17, 2007, the shadowy company successfully blocked the attempt.

Mercantile Securities said the anti-corruption agency lacked powers to seek mutual legal assistance from a foreign country, and that such a request would only be made if there were criminal proceedings against the company in Kenya.

But in July, three Court of Appeal judges dismissed as “idle” the argument that the commission could not seek foreign help.

Citing the Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes Act, the judges ruled that the commission had the powers to seek help from within and without to fight graft.

On Thursday, Mr Simani said in an interview: “We have covered reasonable grounds, which makes us confident we will unearth many new details regarding the scandals… Each time we get new evidence we follow the leads and charge the suspected people.”

The findings would be handed over to Attorney General Amos Wako, he said, after piecing the evidence together. Mr Simani also said that investigations on maize, and the free learning programme funds were still open, with more culprits likely to be exposed.

Recently, commission boss Patrick Lumumba said they would exploit the ruling that allowed them to seek foreign help in tracing stolen money.

Placing obstacles

The ruling, he said, had redeemed the Judiciary that has long been accused of placing obstacles in the way of the commission’s activities.

Dr Lumumba also told those who stole public money and stashed it abroad to return it before the law caught up with them. He warned that those who had plundered public resources would regret their actions.

At least four ministries, which include Local Authorities, Education and Special Programmes and Energy, have corruption scandals in their departments.

At the Local Authorities, at least 15 senior officials are under investigation following a Sh283 million City Hall cemetery scandal where the taxpayer lost money in land judged to be useless for graves.

Already, permanent secretary Sammy Kirui has been suspended over the scandal while Nairobi city mayor Geophrey Majiwa has been charged in court.

At the Education ministry, Sh103 million was lost through unretired imprests. At least 10 officers have been charged in court following investigations by the graft watchdog.