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Economy

KRA official risks losing Sh597m over port bribes

Times Tower, Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) head office
Times Tower, Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) head office. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

The anti-graft agency has launched a fresh bid to seize properties worth Sh597 million from a Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) official, maintaining they are linked to bribes paid at Mombasa port.

The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC), in its appeal, says that the properties owned by Joseph Chege Gikonyo and his wife Lucy Kangai are proceeds of crime and should be forfeited to the government.

High Court Judge Hedwig Ong’udi in November 2018 lifted an order freezing the properties because another judge had ruled in a separate case that one of the properties the EACC was targeting was acquired legally.

The EACC argued that it was wrong for Justice Ong’udi to base her decision on another ruling and discharge Mr Gikonyo’s properties.

The anti-graft agency argues that Mr Gikonyo’s property empire in Mombasa, Kilifi, Nairobi and Murang’a is incongruent with his known income -- a modest monthly salary of Sh100, 000.

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His day job involved valuations and document processing for goods imported through the Mombasa port.

Importers usually hire clearing and forwarding firms to pay and obtain document clearance from the KRA.

EACC says that its detectives tracked down 20 clearing and forwarding agents who said that paying the KRA official to release their cargo had become a normal occurrence.

The clearing and forwarding agents allegedly admitted to having paid Mr Gikonyo Sh258.4 million to have their goods released.

Mr Gikonyo allegedly received Sh43.9 million through mobile money transfer and Sh214.4 million in cash.

Mr Gikonyo and his company Giche Ltd are said to have purchased and developed properties in high-end areas of Nairobi and Mombasa worth Sh355.8 million.

The properties include two plots in Nyali, Mombasa County, valued at Sh125 million, two parcels of land in Shanzu, also in Mombasa, valued at Sh26 million and a posh farm house in Kilifi town valued at Sh27 million.

Others are a Sh40 million house in Mombasa town, a parcel of land in Kwale valued at Sh2.5 million and another in Mtwapa valued at Sh2 million.

The list of Mr Gikonyo’s property in Nairobi includes 13 plots in Sosian estate valued at Sh75 million, several flats in Umoja Estate valued at Sh33.5 million, a house at Greenspan Estate valued at Sh12 million and a Sh9 million house in Vescon Estate.

Mr Gikonyo has also invested in Equity Bank, Safaricom, Kenya Reinsurance Corporation, KenGen and Madison Insurance.

The EACC in 2018 filed a recovery suit against Mr Gikonyo, Ms Stephen and Giche Ltd following two years of investigations.

But Mr Gikonyo and Giche Ltd filed an objection arguing that it had been proved in a different case, that one of his property was acquired lawfully.

Mr Gikonyo sold the property, which had three blocks of flats, to Mr Francis Irungu Thuita in 2018.

He said that he was in active farming before moving to real estate. He demonstrated cash deposits from farming activities and real estate.

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