A senior official at a public roads agency has defended the source of half a billion shillings in 22 bank accounts, saying his wealth is not built from kickbacks and bribes from road contractors.
Benson Musila Muteti maintains he accumulated his wealth from running businesses including bars, hardware stores and schools, with some of the properties acquired before he joined Kenya Rural Roads Agency (KeRRA) in the 1990s.
The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) has accused Mr Muteti of getting kickbacks from contractors and awarding State tenders to a company associated with his brother.
The EACC said multiple deposits were made into Mr Muteti’s 19 bank accounts at KCB and an account each at Cooperative Bank, NBK and Absa Bank, between February 2009 and December 2018.
But Mr Muteti told High Court judge Esther Maina on Wednesday that the EACC had not singled out any of his properties that was acquired through corruption.
Through his lawyer Migos Ogamba, Mr Muteti said other than his salary at KeRRA where he was the Coast regional manager, he had other sources of income.
“There is no complaint of corruption against him. What is the justification for the applicant (EACC) to freeze and seek to recover property acquired before the period under investigations,” he told the court.
The lawyer said his client had demonstrated that he acquired most of the assets as early as 1994 through instalments. “The evidence we have furnished to the court has not been challenged,” he said.
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 acquired with his monthly salary of Sh390,000, arguing that 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 wealth worth Sh952.3 million.
But Mr Muteti told the court yesterday that EACC has not identified a single contractor, individual and or company who bribed him to get tenders from KeRRA.
“That despite the so-called credible information in the possession of the EACC, of me committing corruption and criminal offences, by demanding and receiving bribes and kickbacks, the EACC has never summoned me and has never questioned me about the said allegations,” he said in an affidavit.
He said although investigations were ongoing, he should not be deprived of property because of mere suspicion.
He pleaded with the court to lift the order freezing the assets. He said he had no plans of selling the properties and should the court be convinced to uphold the freezing order, it should be on specific properties and not a blanket order.
He said some of the assets, including seven properties in Nairobi, two vehicles and shares in two insurance companies, were acquired through salaries and emoluments and proceeds from existing businesses and investments.
The EACC on its part maintained that Mr Muteti awarded contracts to companies linked to him in conflict of interest and contrary to the procurement laws.
The anti-graft body, through lawyer Pius Nyoike, said once money was paid to his company, which was being run by a relative, it was wired to Mr Muteti’s accounts. The lawyer told the court that the properties were at risk of being sold if the freezing orders are lifted.
Mr Nyoike said although Mr Muteti was suspended, he was still earning half his salary and getting more than Sh350,000 monthly from rental income. He said Mr Muteti was given a chance to explain how he accumulated the wealth but his response was not satisfactory.
“Investigations were conducted and it was established that he was in possession of assets hugely disproportionate to his known legitimate source of income,” he said.
According to court documents, his wealth would have totalled Sh136 million for the 119 months.
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 store worth Sh41 million.
Justice Maina will decide on January 27 whether to lift the freezing order.