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Migori's Obados and Oluochs: A tale of prosecuted families

By Special Correspondent | October 24th 2021

Migori Governor Okoth Obado (left centre) with his children Everline Adhiambo Zachary, Scarlet Susan Okoth and Jerry Zachary Okoth at Milimani Court. [Collins Kweyu, Standard]

Migori Governor Okoth Obado is no doubt a man of many lives who has survived numerous political battles to keep his head high.

But despite his shrewd political mobilisation in his Migori backyard that has given him courage to go against the political wave of the South Nyanza region, he is at the centre of a multi-million shilling corruption scandal that threatens to curtail his freedom should he be found guilty.

The corruption charges he is facing involve a strange tale of two sets of families enjoined by fate in a complex situation the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) alleges that they conspired to defraud Sh505 million from Migori County Government.

Obado is on one side with his four children Dan Achola Okoth, Scarlet Susan Okoth, Jerry Zachary Okoth and Evelyn Adhiambo Zachary.

On the other side is businessman Jared Kwaga Oluoch, his wife Christine Akinyi Ochola, mother Penina Auma, brothers Joram Opala Otieno and Patroba Ochanda Otieno and sister-in-law Carolyne Anyango Ochola.

The two families were on Thursday paraded in court as the Director of Public Prosecutions obtained orders to charge them afresh.

It was a sobering moment for a father, who traditionally is supposed to offer protection for his family, to stand in the dock with his children facing an uncertain future.

It was more scaring for the businessman whose mother, two brothers, wife and sister-in-law are at the mercy of the court as they faced 26 counts, ranging from conspiracy to commit economic crimes, conflict of interest, unlawful acquisition of public property to money laundering.

In the web of corruption chain as alleged by EACC in several documents filed in court, Kwaga has been accused of being the architect of the alleged heist in which he registered several companies and incorporated his family members as directors.

The prosecution alleged that it was from those payments that Obado got millions of shillings wired to his children’s accounts while others were used to purchase properties.

EACC’s pursuit against the two families does not only involve the anti-corruption case before the magistrate’s court, but also several suits before the High Court in which the agency is seeking to have them forfeit to the State assets acquired through the alleged proceeds of crime.

In the magistrate’s court, the prosecution’s case is that the accused persons used six companies that were hurriedly registered after Obado was elected in 2013 to siphon public funds.

According to the prosecution, the two families engaged in a complex scheme of money laundering where the companies were awarded contracts and got payments worth Sh2.6 billion, which were wired back to the governor through his children who were studying abroad.

“Between January 2014 and February 2016, the accused engaged in an arrangement for the transfer of Sh256 million to a company owned by Jared Kwaga whose effect was to disguise the source of the said money which constituted proceeds of crime,” reads the charge sheet.

Another count stated that all the accused conspired to defraud Sh74 million from the County Government of Migori and that they illegally acquired an additional Sh80 million through conflict of interest.

Obado will individually face another five counts in which the prosecution alleges that he acquired more than Sh40 million from the companies he awarded contracts.

The prosecution told the court that the Sh505 million is part of Sh2.6 billion which was siphoned from the County Government of Migori during Obado’s first term in office between 2013 and 2017.

The companies said to have been registered by the family include Misoft Limited, Tarchdog Printers Limited, Kajulu Buisness Limited, Victorious Investments Limited, Deltrack ICT Limited, Swyfcon Engineering Ltd and Dolphus Software Limited.

Investigations into the corruption scandal in Migori started in 2018 after EACC told the court they had used proxies to siphon public funds from his government.

The commission filed a suit at the High Court to recover Sh2 billion allegedly looted from the county and identified Kwaga as the mastermind of the scandal.

“We established that Kwaga and his family worked in collusion with county government officials holding positions of influence to embezzle public funds through fictitious procurement contracts and accumulated illicit wealth at the expense of the public,” said EACC.

In one instance, EACC said the county government paid over Sh800 million to Kwaga’s seven non-existent companies given that they were registered and became operational almost two years after the money had been credited in their accounts.

Kwaga is alleged to have incorporated his wife, mother, brothers and sister-in-law in the 16 companies that got the exclusive contracts to trade with Obado’s government.

According to EACC, eight of the companies received close to Sh1 billion in their accounts when there is no records of them rendering any service to the county government.

“Their companies were incorporated between 2014 and 2016 after the establishment of county governments in 2013 with the sole purpose of fraudulently securing tenders from the County Government of Migori,” said EACC

But Kwaga and his family have defended their businesses with the county government saying that their multi-million-shilling properties spread across Nairobi, Kisumu and Migori were legally acquired and fully documented in publicly-available records.

“We run several businesses in the country and none of them is fictitious. We have been engaging in genuine trade with records that show we delivered all goods and services under the contracts with the county government,” said Kwaga.

EACC has also filed a second suit at the High Court seeking to seize Obado’s assets worth Sh73 million allegedly purchased using funds embezzled from his county government.

The commission named the governor, his four children, Kwaga and his 13 companies as beneficiaries of the Sh73,474,376 said to have been stolen from the county government and used to purchase a home in Lavington, two high-end vehicles and pay for his children’s college fees.

According to the commission, Sh38,949,376 was wired to Obado’s children for their university tuition fees and upkeep, and a portion of it used to purchase two Land Cruiser V8 luxury vehicles registered under the name of her daughter.

The commission said they traced the remaining Sh34,525,000 to Kenya Power Pension Fund for purchase of the house at Loresho Ridge House in Lavington, Nairobi, with the lease agreement registered in the name of Kwaga but the rent is being paid to Obado’s daughter Evelyne.

EACC wants Obado, his children and his proxies compelled to forfeit to State the house and the two luxury vehicles, claiming that they are proceeds of crime acquired through funds stolen from the County Government of Migori.

For Obado, who has denied the charges, the corruption cases are a continuation of his battles in court where he is also facing murder trial over the killing of university student Sharon Otieno and her unborn child in September 2018.

Besides fighting political battles at his backyard to keep his county government steady, the governor will be in Nairobi either attending the murder trial or the corruption case.

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