Civil servant faces Sh1.2bn asset seizure in graft war


Nicholas Owino Ochiel. FILE PHOTO | POOL

A senior official at the Ministry of Lands whose Sh1.2 billion assets are targeted for forfeiture over claims of corruption has accused the anti-graft agency of using unconstitutional means to freeze his assets.

In an urgent application, Mr Nicholas Owino Ochiel, who is a senior assistant director of valuation at the Ministry says the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission committed serious breaches of law when it purported to conduct a lifestyle audit on him.

The anti-graft body moved to court in June last year and obtained orders blocking him from selling or transferring the houses, land and cars being targeted for forfeiture to the State, over claims that he amassed them through corrupt schemes.

“The notices were incompetent and fatally defective in that they did not delimit the time frame of the investigations, nor did they specify the property targeted for investigations with respect to which the information was sought as required by Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes Act,” Mr Ochiel said in the application.

Justice Prof Nixon Sifuna directed the application to be mentioned on June 21 to confirm compliance and directions on the hearing.

The judge, however, said the application filed by EACC for recovery of the assets will proceed as scheduled on June 6.

Court documents show that the official acquired the properties between January 2003 and November 2018 by allegedly abusing his position by entering into deals with property development companies, organisations and individuals seeking services such as valuation, payment of government stamp duty, and title processing among others.

The commission is targeting properties including his residence in Karen valued at Sh80 million, a house in Thome Estate worth Sh130 million, flats in Parklands valued at Sh100 million and an uncompleted commercial building in Kisumu worth Sh190 million.

Others are residential property in Lolwe, Kisumu worth Sh53 million, a block of flats in Lolwe Estate, Kisumu (Sh55.5 million), and a house in Mirema valued at Sh23 million and three vehicles.

The EACC says money that went through his M-Pesa amounts to Sh497 million, the properties are worth Sh694.6 million, and the cars are valued at Sh10.5 million.

Mr Ochiel was first employed at the ministry as a valuer in 1996 and was the principal valuer from 2012 to 2016 before he was promoted to his current position.

Mr Ochiel said in his application that the EACC conducted a lifestyle audit on him after obtaining warrants before a magistrate and took away his mobile phones and computers for analysis.

He said the ant-graft body later said he has unexplained wealth totalling Sh1.2 billion and required him to explain the source.

However, he claims the EACC exceeded the period indicated in the search warrant and went all the way to 1996 when he was employed.

PAYE Tax Calculator

Note: The results are not exact but very close to the actual.