Kenya: Nairobi governor arrested for 'economic crimes'

Governor Mike Sonko is the latest in a string of top government officials to be hauled in on corruption charges.

    Sonko and other country officials are accused by public prosecutor Noordin Haji of having benefitted from irregular procurement and payments of $3.5 million [Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP]
    Sonko and other country officials are accused by public prosecutor Noordin Haji of having benefitted from irregular procurement and payments of $3.5 million [Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP]

    The governor of Nairobi was arrested on Friday shortly after Kenya's chief prosecutor ordered he be detained to face charges for economic crimes.

    Governor Mike Sonko is the latest in a string of top officials to be hauled in on corruption charges as Kenya battles to clamp down on rampant graft.

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    "EACCKenya confirms that Nairobi City County Governor Mike Sonko Mbuvi has been arrested while escaping arrest at a road block in Voi," the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) posted on Twitter. 

    Sonko and other country officials are accused by public prosecutor Noordin Haji of having benefitted from irregular procurement and payments of $3.5m (3.1 million euros).

    Haji said he had sufficient evidence to prosecute Sonko and other county officials for "unlawful acquisition of public property, money laundering and other economic crimes."

    "I have therefore ordered for the immediate arrest and arraignment in court of the Governor of Nairobi Hon. Mike Mbuvi Sonko and other persons," Haji said in a statement earlier on Friday.

    When, in 2017, the ruling party chose populist Mike Sonko as its candidate for Nairobi's gubernatorial poll, it was seen as a maverick move. Sonko is a controversial politician who has spent time in jail and has had to deny allegations of illegal activities, including drug trafficking.

    Haji said his investigation into Sonko and his officials had been challenging "because of the repeated attempts by the accused to obstruct the course of the investigations by deploying intimidation tactics".

    Corruption battle

    Kenya has for decades battled the scourge of corruption, and President Uhuru Kenyatta - like many presidents before him - has vowed to combat graft.

    Dozens of top executives and government officials have been charged since Kenyatta's 2017 re-election, including sitting Finance Minister Henry Rotich who was in July charged over an alleged multi-million dollar corruption scandal.

    Rotich and nearly 20 other top officials from the treasury and other departments were arrested after an investigation into the alleged loss of 21 billion Kenyan shillings ($203m) on ghost dam construction projects.

    The finance minister, a Harvard-trained economist, pleaded not guilty to a slew of charges that included but limited to: failure to comply with guidelines relating to procurement, conspiracy to defraud the public and financial misconduct.

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    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies