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EACC goes after Lands official Sh1.2b assets

 Nicholas Owino's Property. [Strandard]

In the leafy suburb of Karen Estate, an assistant director for valuation at the Ministry of Lands and Physical Planning is living large while rubbing shoulders with the millionaires in town.

The Karen home valued at Sh80 million is one of the multi-million properties spread across the country owned by Nicholas Owino Ochiel which the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) claims were acquired through corruption.

EACC through lawyer Grace Maina has moved to the High Court seeking to be allowed to seize Ochiel’s properties and assets worth Sh1.2 billion he allegedly acquired through corruption over a period of 15 years.

“He amassed wealth that is not commensurate to his known and legitimate sources of income between January 2003 and November 2018. His legitimate income within that period was Sh6.3 million but he had properties and cash in account totalling Sh1.2 billion,” said Maina.

According to the commission, Ochiel was first employed at the Ministry of Lands as a valuer in 1996 and rose through the ranks until he was promoted to senior assistant director of valuation.

Within the stated period, Ms Maina told the court that the public officer incorporated two companies, Ternic Valuers Limited and Ternic Enterprises Limited, and used them as conduits of corruption while colluding with his wife Violet Terry Muthoni and brother Richard Omondi Ochiel.

“He exploited his official position of trust in the ministry of lands for his private gain. He took undue advantage of his position to confer benefit to himself by entering into contracts with private entities for services he was employed and paid to provide at the ministry,” said Maina.

EACC claimed they discovered that Ochiel, his wife, brother, and their two companies accumulated wealth worth Sh1,365,054,008, and when they were summoned to explain, they only justified assets worth Sh158 million which meant the balance of Sh1,206,851,274 were acquired through graft.

The commission wants Ochiel and his associates compelled to forfeit to the State landed properties worth Sh695 million, money transacted through bank and Mpesa totalling Sh497 million, and motor vehicles worth Sh10.5 million.

The properties include the Karen residence valued at Sh80 million, an apartment block in Thome Estate valued at Sh130 million, undeveloped land in Parklands worth Sh100 million, and a commercial building in Ugunja town within Siaya County valued at Sh190 million.

Others include a block of apartments in Lolwe Estate in Kisumu City valued at Sh53 million, another block of apartments within the same estate worth Sh55.5 million, a residential house in Mirema Estate in Nairobi worth Sh23 million, and a house in Kisumu valued at Sh15.5 million.

EACC claimed further that Ochiel has 17 pieces of land and other properties in Nairobi, Kisumu, Siaya, and Kajiado while his wife has four properties registered in her name.

“We established that he illegally acquired the assets when he entered into contracts with property development companies, organisations, and members of the public to facilitate valuation, payment of government stamp duty, title processing and purportedly conducting forensic audit services,” said Maina.

She added that Ochiel exploited his official position of trust in the ministry for private gain in which he allegedly took undue advantage of his position to confer benefit to himself.

EACC investigator Shadrack Mwenda in his affidavit to support the application swore that they discovered Ochiel assessed and received government levies and stamp duty fees from his clients without disclosing them to the ministry for personal gain.

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