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Businessman seeks to save land in prison warder Sh257m graft case

EACC offices at Integrity Centre in Nairobi. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

A businessman who sold properties to a prison cleaner suspected of stealing Sh257 million from the State Department for Correctional Services is seeking to be enjoined in the case the anti-corruption commission has filed against the officer as he seeks to save his land from being forfeited to the State.

Stephen Jeremiah Ogeto claims his land in Kisii County, valued at Sh43 million, is among those listed as belonging to Eric Kipkurui Mutai, and which the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC), claims was acquired through proceeds of corruption.

“I acquired the land from the previous owner and had it registered in my name but the EACC deliberately left me out of the case and failed to give me a chance to explain how I acquired the property,” said Ogeto.

The trader however admitted that he bought the property from Dr Mathews Akama using money paid to him by Kirui after he sold him three vehicles and a barber shop.

In the case, the EACC has sued Kirui for allegedly siphoning Sh257 million from the State Department for Correctional Services where he is employed as a cleaning supervisor. He earns a monthly salary of Sh20,800.

According to the commission, Mutai colluded with senior prison officers in charge of supply and hatched the plot for which he registered three companies that were paid Sh257 million without supplying anything.

EACC listed several properties acquired by Mutai that they want to be forfeited to the State, including the land in Kisii County.

But Ogeto, in his application, argues that he was not a party to the stealing of money meant to buy food for prisoners and only came into contact with Mutai for business purposes.

“I first met Mutai in July 2017 when he told me he wanted to buy some vehicles. We reached an agreement and I sold him a Toyota Station Wagon at Sh10 million, a Volkswagen for Sh15 million, and the last one at Sh3 million,” said Ogeto.

He said that since Mutai had informed him that he wanted a shop in Nairobi’s Central Business District, they entered another agreement where he sold him a barber shop at Jubilee Insurance Building for Sh15 million.

Ogeto said he was looking for a piece of land to buy in Kisii town within the same period and instead of taking the money from Mutai, he told the prison cleaner to pay it directly to the seller, Dr Akama on his behalf.

“Since Mutai was to effect payments to me on the agreements for sale of the three vehicles and barber shop, I told him to instead effect the payments directly to Dr Akama to secure my purchase of the land,” said Ogeto.

It is the reason the businessman said the money for the purchase of the land was paid by Mutai but the property belongs to him.

The High Court had in April frozen Mutai’s accounts and assets including the land in Kisii, seven vehicles, a house in Nairobi valued at Sh17.5 million, two other parcels of land in Kisii County valued at Sh25 million, and another piece of land in Kericho County valued at Sh17 million.

EACC claimed that Mutai through his three companies Unique Supplies, Homex Logistics Enterprises and Hygienic Ventures purchased the landed properties and the seven vehicles which constitute proceeds of corruption and should be forfeited to the state.

Although Mutai argued that he acquired the Sh257 million for supplying food rations to several prison facilities, the EACC stated that there are no documents to prove that the food rations were supplied despite the huge payments being released to his accounts.