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Why the dramatic arrest spells doom for Sonko and City Hall

By Allan Mungai | December 7th 2019 at 12:00:00 GMT +0300

Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko. [Edward Kiplimo,Standard]

The walls are closing in on Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko, following his arrest yesterday over his alleged involvement in corruption at City Hall.

Sonko was arrested in Voi while on his way to Mombasa a few hours after Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji announced that he would be arrested on suspicion of high level corruption.

After an investigation that the DPP said was made challenging by obstruction, intimidation and constant threats to the investigators, Haji said the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) had acquired evidence to prosecute Sonko and eight other county employees for the theft of Sh357 million.

“Investigations into these crimes have been challenging because of the repeated attempts by the accused to obstruct the course of the investigation by deploying intimidation tactics in addition to using goons to threaten law enforcement officials,” the DPP said yesterday.

The charges against the governor range from abuse of office, conflict of interest, unlawful acquisition of public property, money laundering, conspiracy to commit an offence of corruption, to willful failure to comply with procurement laws.

Others on the radar of investigative agencies include County Secretary Peter Mbugua, Head of Supply Chain Management Patrick Mwangangi, members of the Negotiation, Tender Opening and Evaluation Committee Samuel Ndung’u, Edwin Kariuki, Lawrence Mwangi and Preston Mwandiki as well as clerical officers Wambua Ndaka and Andrew Nyasiego.

Haji is also going after some six companies and their directors who had a hand in plundering the richest county in the country.

Hardi Enterprises Limited and Toddy Civil Engineering are directly linked to funds stolen from the county while Web Tribe Limited, Arbab Auto Limited, High Energy Petroleum Limited and ROG Security Limited are suspects in the laundering of Sh24.1 million.

Arrest warrants

Those whose arrest warrants were issued yesterday include Hardi Enterprises Limited and Toddy Civil Engineering directors Anthony Ng’ang’a and Rose Ng’ang’a, respectively, Antony Ombok, (Arbab Auto Limited, High Energy Petroleum Limited and ROG Security Limited), Web Tribe Limited directors Danson Njunji, Robert Muna and their agent Zablon Ochomo as well as Fredrick Odhiambo who is a partner at Yiro Enterprises.

Sonko has been on the radar of detectives over a tender to collect garbage and a trail of payments uncovered by the EACC from companies doing business with the county and percentages of which were allegedly laundered back to the governor’s bank accounts.

In an affidavit filed at the anti-corruption court, the EACC says Sh27.4 million was wired into Sonko’s accounts at Equity Bank from three companies, which had been awarded multi-million-shilling contracts by the county.

The EACC says Arbab Auto Ltd received Sh23.3 million from Amaco Assurance, which runs the contract to insure county government vehicles, and then wired Sh17 million to Sonko.

Yiro Enterprises Ltd and Web Tribe, which operates JamboPay and was until May this year providing e-payment revenue collection for the county, sent Sh14.1 million and Sh10 million, respectively to ROG Securities Ltd.

ROG Securities Ltd then later sent Sh10.4 million to Sonko.

Arbab and ROG Securities Ltd are both owned by Ombok who was in October 2017 appointed as the governor’s communications advisor.

Yiro is among companies, including Hardi Enterprises Ltd, which won the contact to collect garbage in the city.

Prior to the remittances to Sonko, all the companies had received money from the county government as payments for contracts.

The DPP said yesterday the companies were criminally culpable for laundering up to Sh24.1 million.

Their directors, he said, would be charged with unlawful acquisition of public property, money laundering and acquisition of proceeds of crime.

Haji has warned the suspects against attempts to intimidate, threaten and malign investigating officers and agencies and using the public to derail their prosecution.

“…any attempts to instigate social unrest and incite the public will be countered with the whole of government response,” said Haji.

“Members of the public are advised not to allow themselves to be used as human shields in the defence of these officials charged. Any person who engages in such behaviour will be dealt with by whole of government and held individually liable.”

Sonko’s arraignment will likely alter the course of City Hall and serve to slip the office from his grasp.

From the corruption charges, his lack of a deputy, flooding in the city, and a chaotic transport system, the chickens are finally coming home to roost.

Since Sonko does not have a deputy governor, it will also put the county in uncharted waters, going by the precedent set by the High Court, which blocked Samburu Governor Moses Lenolkulal and Kiambu’s Ferdinand Waititu, who have both been charged with corruption, from accessing office and effectively charged the county to their deputies.

Given his inclination to overt gestures, Sonko posted a picture of him sitting alone at the head of a gilded dining room, that caused furore online. 

A statement from his office yesterday downplayed his tribulations and captured the governor’s thoughts on his predicament as a “choreographed lie”, “temporary insubordination”, and “political trap”.

Meanwhile, the governor will spend the weekend in custody after the Anti-Corruption Court turned down the his bid to be released on bond.


THE STANDARD INSIDER

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