How Kinoti, DPP nailed dams scam suspects

The arrest of top State officials over the multi-billion shilling Kimwarer and Arror dams’ scandal was a result of an elaborate probe that saw Kenya enlist the help of Italy, UK and Dubai.    

Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich presented himself to the Directorate of Criminal Investigations hours after Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Noordin Haji ordered his arrest.

Also arrested were Treasury Permanent Secretary Kamau Thugge (pictured) and other senior Government officials awaiting to be arraigned today. A total 28 officials and entities are to be charged.

This follows a nine-month probe into the stalled Sh65 billion dams that were to be constructed in Elgeyo Marakwet.

At a Press briefing in his office yesterday, Mr Haji termed the twin dam scandal one of the biggest corruption heists in the country in recent times.

“If the projects were carried out in adherence to the law and existing policies for safeguarding public interest, then it should not have cost Sh63 billion. We have evidence to prove Sh19,714,366,991 was lost through a well-choreographed scheme to defraud public funds,” said Haji.

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The elaborate probe saw Kenya enlist the help of Italy, UK and Dubai to finally crack the case and get much needed evidence to commence prosecution.

The Standard has reliably learnt that with the help from the countries, the multi-agency task-force that has been investigating the case was able to track the activities and payments made regarding the multi-purpose dams projects.

For instance, the team was provided with CCTV footage of meetings between Kenyan officials and Italians, where the deals were reportedly negotiated. The Kenyan officials included top politicians and their handlers who live in the country and outside, an official aware of the footage revealed.

“It was shocking on those caught in the video. It is clear on the motive,” said an official involved in the probe, but who asked not to be named.

The investigating team comprising Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI), DPP and the Attorney General’s office also managed to convince the other countries to start prosecution of those involved.

According to the team, the firm used to insure the money has a dummy company with local ownership.

Haji and DCI George Kinoti, accompanied by officers from their departments and the AG’s office, visited Rome and (Torino) Milan, Italy to get the assistance of the Italian government in probing the deal and in specific, CMC Di Ravenna, the contractor of the project.

They established that out of the Sh63 billion borrowed for the projects, as at January 2019, the Government of Kenya had made an advance payment, commitment fee, insurance and other costs totaling Sh19.7 billion.

“Out of this, Sh11 billion for insurance was paid upfront. In contrast, if the borrowing was justified, a Government guarantee would have sufficed at no cost to the Government of Kenya and mwananchi,” said the DPP.

Further, €40,031,927 (approximately Sh4.65 billion) was borrowed in addition to the principle amount to pay interest in advance during the construction period, which to date has not commenced.

As a country, we continue to pay interest on the loan, he said.

The team is also reported to have protested the payment of the money for the government-to-government deal, which they alleged to have turned commercial. They established that part of the money paid was wired back to Nairobi, where it was withdrawn from a local bank and shared among a few people.

“They traced the deposits and transaction at the bank,” said an investigator involved in the case, disclosing that with the help of Dubai authorities, the accounts have been frozen.

“This is the first phase of the arrests. There is the second phase that will involve the foreigners in their respective nations, including a Kenyan with citizenship in UK and Greece,” disclosed an insider aware of the investigations.

For instance, out of Sh643 million that was paid by Treasury to the contractor, Sh450 million was sent to a private account in London, then Dubai, and later to Nairobi.

The Sh643 million was released by the National Treasury as counterpart funds, which was intended for the resettlement of the persons that would be affected by the said projects, as compensation for the land acquired.

However, there is no evidence that land has been acquired four years down the line, Haji said.

Furthermore, Kenya Forest Service, in a bid to protect the environment, strongly opposed any excision of forest land, pointing to significant adverse impact on the forest ecosystem. 

The new owners of the targeted land were to charge the Government Sh6 billion for the same for which they paid Sh450 million.

CMC Di Ravenna Kenya has also been cited among companies that allegedly received Sh100.6 million for services yet to be determined.

A valuation company for land and relocation services was paid Sh19.4 million despite the fact that the land in both sites is still occupied.

Another was allegedly paid Sh8 million for the supply of construction material, while an insurance company is said to have received Sh47 million to provide a cover for the dams.

The Asset Recovery Agency has so far obtained freezing orders on various suppliers involved in the scam.

After camping in Italy, the team proceeded to Dubai, where they established that officials of a company registered there were involved in receiving and wiring part of the money to Kenya.

The team used the information ir obtained to build the case against the Government officials and contractors.

At least five Cabinet Secretaries — Rotich, Mwangi Kiunjuri (Agriculture), Eugene Wamalwa (Devolution), East Africa Community’s Adan Mohamed and Peter Munya (Trade), were questioned over the scandal.

Also questioned

Their Principal Secretaries, top Treasury officials,  Kerio Valley Development Authority bosses, Kenya Forest Service officials and staff from several Government agencies also recorded statements on the matter.

The failure by the contractors — CMC di Ravenna and Itinera of Italy — to commence the construction of the dams after receiving the mobilisation money raised questions.

Officials say the poor financial health of the Italian firm is also thought to be the reason the same contractor abandoned Itare Dam and failed to start work at the Arror and Kimwarer sites.

The project was to be a joint venture by KVDA, CMC di Ravenna and Itinera of Italy. But police have detected several faults in subsequent contracts that were signed to warrant payments.

Apart from boosting food security, the dams would have provided clean water for hundreds of households in the county and neighboring Uasin Gishu, besides generating hydro-electric power to be connected to the national grid.

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Kamau ThuggeDirectorate of Criminal Investigations