Former NLC Chair Muhammad Swazuri arrested over graft

Forme National Land Commission Chairman Muhammad Swazuri arrested on graft. photo: Standard.
Former National Land Commission Chairman Muhammad Swazuri was Wednesday arrested over Sh109.8 million fraud. The money was meant for land compensation for residents affected by road construction in Mombasa.

Also arrested or wanted were 23 other persons who included at least three couples who were involved in the scheme.

The Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji said the individuals will be charged with conspiracy to commit an economic crime, abuse of office, financial misconduct, unlawful acquisition of public property, dealing with suspect property and money laundering.

Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission detectives were Wednesday hunting for more of those still at large to take plea.

Among those wanted include a commissioner at NLC Emma Njogu, deputy director of valuation and taxation at NLC Joash Oindo, his wife Jane Wanjiku Gachigi and son Kevin, director of valuation and taxation Dr Salome Munubi and her husband Sostaenah Ogero Taracha, director of finance Francis Mugo and lawyer Cathrene Wanjiru Chege.

Others are businessman Samuel Rugongo, Michael Onyango Oloo and his wife Lilian Keverenge who is a secretary at NLC, Godfrey Muritu, Nazi Matabkhan, Shakil Khan, Evahmary Wachera, Francis Kibaru, Martha Wairimu, John Mwangi, Philip Kileiya, Albert Lessonet, Mary Wahu, Lorgis Logistics Ltd and Betha Wangithi.

Haji explained that the probe relates to irregular payment of compensation by NLC to Tornado Carriers Limited for compulsory acquisition for land in Mombasa.

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The Kenya National Highway Authority had requested NLC to acquire land for the construction of southern bypass and Kipevu New Highway Container Terminal link road in October 2013.

“The process of land acquisition commenced and the NLC identified Tornado Carriers parcel of land suitable for compulsory acquisition,” he said.

Haji said a valuation was undertaken which showed the value of the land in 2015 was Sh34.5 million and an award was made to Tornado Carriers Limited for the sum which they rejected forcing Swazuri to order valuation department to undertake a fresh valuation.

“The team returned a staggering Sh109.7 million for the same parcel of land in January 2017.”

On the strength of the second valuation, Kenha remitted to NLC Sh109.7 million and the commission paid Tornado Carriers Limited Sh55.2 million and the advocate Sh54.5 million.

It was after the probe that EACC concluded there was fraud and told DPP to charge those involved.

Last year, Swazuri, Kenya Railways Corporation Managing Director Atanas Maina and five others were arrested over the fraudulent compensations.

Swazuri, together with David Some, (Director, Keibukwo Investments), and Munubi were later released on a cash bail of Sh3.5 million.

An audit report indicated that the Kenyan taxpayer had lost around Sh4 billion in the illegality.

Evidence collected showed that fake compensation claims, double payments, over payments, inflation of land values and payment of people whose land was never on the corridor was used to loot taxpayer’s money.

Following the arrests, crucial data which was key in the investigations is said to have disappeared after a break-in at the commissions’ offices.

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Muhammad SwazuriNoordin HajiTornado Carriers Limited