Nairobi, Kenya – Paolo Porcelli, the CEO of CMC di Ravenna, the Italian construction firm implicated in an international corruption scandal involving two dam projects in Kenya, is now a wanted man in the country.
The Milimani Chief Magistrate’s court in Nairobi allowed Kenya’s Director of Public Prosecutors (DPP), Noordin Haji, to issue an arrest warrant for Porcelli on Monday morning after the CEO failed for a second time to appear in court to enter a plea on corruption charges.
“Porcelli is a fugitive. Despite being given the opportunity, he hasn’t presented himself in court for a second time,” DPP Special Prosecutor Taib Ali Taib told the court. “The Italians think they can break the law and get away with it, contemptuously. They believe nothing will come out of it. Don’t allow it, your honour.”
CMC di Ravenna’s lawyer, Kevin Anami, argued in court Monday that the charge sheet against Porcelli did not “clearly inform in sufficient detail the action and inaction Porcelli personally undertook in contravention of the law to enable him to respond,” and that the charges against his client, “fail to properly describe him, his designation and/or [the] capacity in which he acted or failed to act.”
Anami told the court he had instructions from Porcelli to enter a plea of not guilty on his behalf. But Chief Magistrate, Douglas Ogoti, rejected his bid.
“The reasons given for his absence were not sufficient. A warrant of arrest is to be issued against Paolo for being absent without sufficient reasons,” said Ogoti.
The court did allow CMC di Ravenna’s lawyer to enter a not guilty plea on behalf of the company and its Kenyan subsidiary on a slew of corruption charges including “conspiracy to defraud the government”.
CMC di Ravenna is at the centre of a corruption scandal involving the Arror and Kimwarer dam projects in Kenya’s Rift Valley region. Prosecutors claim that no work has been done on the dams despite the Italian firm having won the construction contract four years ago, and some $180m having been paid out by the Kenyan treasury in connection with the projects.
Mr Porcelli is the only non-Kenyan charged in connection with the corruption scandal that rocked the country last week.
In addition to Porcelli, 27 Kenyan officials have been arrested and charged with alleged financial misconduct, including Finance Minister Henry Rotich, who is the first sitting minister in Kenya to be hauled into court on corruption charges.
Rotich pleaded not guilty to all charges against him.