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Civil servants feel the heat as assets frozen in graft war


In the past few months, several civil servants have had their assets frozen over allegations that they were acquired using funds stolen from public coffers or diverted for individual benefit.

The properties run into billions of shillings as the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) trained its eyes on the suspects accused of siphoning public funds to benefit themselves.

EACC chief executive Twalib Mbarak says the Commission is alarmed by the magnitude of looting of public resources that investigations have revealed.

The Commission, he said, has profiled most of the county governors and noted that a significant number have treated their tenure as an opportunity for self-enrichment.

“EACC warns all State and public officers who have embezzled public resources, especially during this transition period that they will face the full force of the law,” he warned.

In March, an official working with the National Youth Service lost properties worth millions of shillings after the High Court ruled he could not account for it.

Evans Wafula Kundu was employed by the NYS as a serviceman in 1980 and rose through the ranks to become the acting deputy director and officer in charge of the Mechanical and Transport Branch.

His monthly salary at the time of suspension and when he was charged in court with graft and abuse of office in 2018 was Sh78,164. However, evidence adduced in court stated that he had made deposits amounting to Sh197 million between 2013 and 2018.

Mr Kundu had also acquired parcels of land and houses in Nakuru, Kitale and Nairobi.

“It is my finding that the respondent (Kundu) and the Interested Parties (his spouses and daughter) did not adduce evidence to prove the sources of the cash used to acquire the properties during the period of interest that is 2013 to 2018,” High Court judge Esther Maina said.

She added that the Assets Recovery Agency (ARA), which successfully argued for the seizure of the properties, demonstrated that Mr Kundu could not have acquired the assets legitimately given his income.

“I am, therefore, satisfied that the properties acquired during the period of interest are proceeds of crime and hence liable to be forfeited to the government,” the judge said.

The properties forfeited to the government include flats in Kasarani worth Sh16 million, Nairobi which he acquired in April 2014, 40 acres of land in Kitale which he bought in 2013, a plot in Kitale, a house in Runda worth Sh73 million, a house in Kiamunyi in Nakuru and a lorry.

Others are a four-storey residential building in Njoro, another land in Nairobi valued at Sh6 million and his palatial home in Trans Nzoia, which was allegedly constructed using proceeds of crime.

Mr Kundu defended his wealth, saying his sources of income included maize farming both for commercial purposes and seed production on properties that his second wife inherited from her family.

He claimed that the proceeds from maize farming brought him income of between Sh65 million and Sh175 million, annually.

The official further claimed that he acquired a total of 19 assets between 1995 and 2014, mostly from proceeds derived from a bar and restaurant business he was running in Kitale as well as matatu transport business.

The claims were dismissed by Justice Maina, stating that the official did not file annual returns or tax returns with Kenya revenue Authority (KRA), from such big business.

Evidence tabled in court showed that most of the funds were from companies that got payment from NYS and who made deposits to Mr Kundu’s bank account in batches of Sh999,000, to beat the Central Bank of Kenya prudential guidelines.

In April, the High Court froze land, seven cars and a house in Nairobi worth Sh17.5 million belonging to an accountant working at the department of Correction Services.

Mr Eric Kipkurui Mutai is suspected to have benefitted from tenders worth Sh257 million between 2012 and 2016 and the commission went for the properties because they suspected to have been purchased using proceeds of crime.

Justice Esther Maina granted the order freezing the vehicles and property for six months, pending conclusion by EACC.

A few days later, the court also directed the preservation of two houses in Nairobi suspected to have been purchased using funds stolen from the same Prisons department, this time by an official named as Moses Juma Sirengo.

Recovery, forfeiture

The court directed Mr Sirengo not to sell of transfer the house in Komarock, pending conclusion of investigations by EACC. The official allegedly purchased the house for Sh4 million.

It is suspected that the two officials were working in cahoots by registering fictitious companies and paying them for supplying air in the guise of purchase of rations and sugar for the prisons.

“The properties so purchased constitute proceeds of corrupt conduct or corruption which the Applicant is mandated to seek recovery or forfeiture of from the 1st Respondent (Mutai),” the EACC submitted.

Court documents show that Mr Mutai was paid Sh257 million between 2012 and 2016, for supplies allegedly made to the Prisons.

He is the sole proprietor of seven companies registered during the period and using the said companies, he got the funds allegedly through fictitious supply of food and ration to the department of Corrections.

The companies include Unique Supplies, Homex Logistics Enterprises and Hygienic Ventures.

From the payments, Mr Mutai allegedly bought the parcels of land in Nyaribari Chache in Kisii County, Kipchimchim in Kericho County and another property in Nairobi.

He also acquired the seven motor vehicles, all valued at Sh30 million. The costliest vehicle was Sh6.8 million as per the court documents.

The EACC said investigations established that Mr Mutai while not being authorised, obtained S13 forms used in procurement by the department of Corrections, which formed the basis of payments made, as they were attached to the payment vouchers.

He allegedly claimed to have supplied food and ration to seven prison facilities in Nairobi through his companies and although no supplies were made, money was wired to his bank accounts opened in 2016 and 2017. He later withdrew the money and purchased the said properties.

A former government official whose assets have been frozen by EACC is Jeremiah Kamau Kinyua. He used to work for the KRA before quitting in March last year.

The anti-graft body wants Mr Kinyua compelled to forfeit property worth Sh278 million to the government, saying he acquired them through bribes in a period of seven years.

While his net salary during the said period was Sh11.6 million, Mr Kinyua amassed a total of 18 parcels of land and homes in Nairobi, Ruiru in Kiambu, Laikipia and Kitegela in Kajiado County valued at Sh181 million.

The commission is also targeting two vehicles valued at Sh10 million and money in the accounts and M-Pesa totalling to Sh91.6 million.

The EACC initially targeted property worth Sh359.5 million from Mr Kinyua and companies linked to him but after investigations, the Commission said he was able to explain property with cumulative value of Sh83.1 million.

“Investigations revealed that the 1st Respondent received huge and successive cash deposits in his various bank accounts which he could not satisfactorily demonstrate the source and therefore the Commission reasonably suspects that the same were bribes,” the EACC said in the petition.

Officers from EACC raided Mr Kinyua’s home early last year and seized more than Sh1 million in Kenya shillings, Chinese currency and UAE Dirham, which should also be forfeited to the government.

According to the EACC, Mr Kinyua’s explanation was inadequate and the assets should be forfeited to the government.

Court documents show that Mr Kinyua was employed at the KRA as a graduate trainee in January 28, 2005. He was promoted to a supervisor, domestic taxes department, where he worked until he resigned in March last year.

Separately, the EACC is targeting properties belonging to a senior treasury official suspected to have acquired property worth Sh46.7 million.

The court has allowed the commission to collect monthly rent from houses belonging Charles Muia Mutiso, pending the conclusion of the case.

The anti-graft agency believes the six units of two-bedroomed houses each in Matungulu, Machakos County, were acquired using proceeds of crime and should be forfeited to the government.

Mr Mutiso is on suspension at half-pay. He allegedly received in accounts credits amounting to Sh41.8 million between April 1, 2015 and April 30, 2020. He allegedly received Sh7.5 million through M-Pesa and Sh21.9 million in deposits but he withdrew the money between April 1, 2015 and April 30, 2020.

“There is sufficient evidence to demonstrate that the Respondent has unexplained assets to the tune of Kshs. 45,426,196.70/- and the said assets should be forfeited to the Government of Kenya and any difference in value at the date of judgement should be paid to the Government,” EACC said in the petition.

Another official likely to lose assets worth millions of shillings is Margaret Wanja Muthui, a deputy director at Kenya Rural Roads Authority (KeRRA).

The official is accused of amassing assets including 11 apartments at a place known as Signature Apartments in Kileleshwa and the 24 units in a flat in Ruaka (Taraji), which have since been frozen.

The bulk of the properties were acquired in cash during the demonetisation by the Central Bank of Kenya in 2019. The ARA claims Ms Muthui used proxies to acquire the properties.

Other than the apartments, the court froze Sh94 million held in several accounts at Co-operative Bank, and registered under different persons, pending the determination of the petition.

The properties are valued at Sh374 million going by the prices they were acquired.

And a Kenya Rural Roads Agency (Kura) official is fighting to block the government from seizing his empire. Mr Benson Musila Muteti allegedly stashed half a billion shillings in 22 bank accounts, while he was the Coast regional manager for the agency.

The official has defended himself, saying they have not identified any of his properties acquired through corruption.

The anti-graft body initially targeted more than Sh1.03 billion from Mr Muteti but the roads official satisfactorily explained properties with a cumulative value of Sh78.7 million.

The EACC says the bank accounts and the real estate property in Nairobi, Makueni and Kilifi counties could not have been built by his monthly salary of Sh390,000, saying he was a beneficiary of kickbacks from road contractors.

Other than the money in four banks, the EACC has applied to seize 27 properties, shares in multiple companies and schools linked to Mr Muteti, his spouse Zipporah Mwongeli and their companies, saying they are part of unexplained Sh952.3 million wealth.

The properties targeted from Mr Musila and his wife include seven apartments, eight commercial and residential plots, two schools — Mumbe Junior Academy and Mumbe Girls High School — as well as shares worth Sh2.24 million, four vehicles and a hardware worth Sh41 million.

Last month, the court blocked a Machakos county official from selling or transferring a residential property over claims he acquired wealth worth Sh637 million through corruption.

Urbanus Wambua Musyoka was barred from selling or transferring the house under construction in Machakos County, together with two motor vehicles and money in two bank accounts totaling to Sh11.5 million. Also frozen is a land in Kibauni area in Mwala.

The EACC said it has been investigating Mr Musyoka from January 2014 and July 2021 and discovered that he exploited his official position for private gain by engaging in transactions that were in conflict with public interest.

The anti-graft body says the official awarded tenders and contracts to companies linked to his wife, brother and associates.

The companies include Wafih International Limited, Wisdom Holdings Limited, Wemmar Enterprises Limited and Kikoto General Merchants Limited.

Further, the EACC says the contracts were not competitive, showing he circumvented procurement and other relevant laws.

Money was later wired to his bank accounts or those held by his proxies and which he used to acquire the properties. In total, he allegedly received Sh457 million between the said period yet his net salary for the said period amounted to Sh16.2 million.

“During the period under investigations, the 1st defendant acquired landed property and other assets valued at Kshs 105,809,831.00. The total cumulative value of all these assets less his salary earned during the period of interest amounted to Kshs. 637,153,870.80,” EACC said in the petition.

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