Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) detectives Tuesday raided the office and homes of Migori Governor Okoth Obado and confiscated, among other things, eight firearms, several bank statements and electronics.
Five of the firearms were recovered in Nairobi while sources within EACC said they recovered another three in Migori. The Nation could not independently authenticate the claims because the homes were heavily guarded.
The detectives pounced at dawn, and spent hours rummaging through documents that could help in their investigations into alleged misappropriation of Sh2 billion in Migori County.
The Firearms Act is silent on the number of pistols a licensed civilian should own, but is specific on the type of firearms to be licensed for.
Director of Criminal Investigations George Kinoti said the firearms would be subjected to ballistic examinations and verification of certificates at the Central Firearms Bureau (CFB).
It is not clear how long the investigations and the studying of the documents would take, but EACC retained the electronics and the documents that were seized.
The rural home of the governor remained highly guarded for the period that the detectives were looking for the documents.
The team of about 60 officers from Nairobi and Kisii, accompanied by heavily armed security personnel, was earlier in the day at the county government offices, where a similar operation was carried out.
The county boss is accused of using proxies, among them his relatives, to siphon Sh2 billion from the coffers of the county government, according to an affidavit filed in court by the anti-corruption watchdog.
The detectives turned inside out the office of the county chief and carted away several documents they believed would help them to nail the governor.
Security officers deployed at the home watched from a distance as EACC team took charge of the palatial home for several hours.
Mr Obado was, however, away at his Lavington home in Nairobi, where other detectives were also looking for clues.
EACC has been investigating how the county chief allegedly abused his position to steal public funds through companies registered by his relatives.
In a period of three years, these newly registered companies had transacted Sh1,971,179,180 deals exclusively with the county government, which was glaringly inconsistent with their known legitimate sources of income.
Only officers from the EACC were allowed into the Rapogi home which the governor moved from immediately he returned to Migori from Industrial Area Remand Prison where he had been remanded.
Mr Obado, who is accused of the murder of his girlfriend Sharon Otieno, is out on a Sh5 million bail.
At the gate, there was heavy scrutiny, but the Nation team cleverly managed to get in. Inside the homestead, dozens of administration police officers dotted the compound and a number of people whom we learnt were close aides to Mr Obado were seated in strategic places, observing the happenings.
The mood was tense, in and outside the compound. But nevertheless, we had managed to get our way inside despite several warnings that journalists should not be seen near the compound.
“There are orders from above that journalists should not be allowed here,” revealed one of the EACC officers.
The anti-graft detectives walked in and out of the magnificent home, perhaps keen not to leave out any evidence that might be useful in their investigations.
But our freedom there was limited and suspicious faces were all over us. As soon as we alighted from our vehicle, several people rushed to where we were.
In a matter of seconds, a tall slender man who had been guarding the main gate and who had allowed us in was on our case, demanding to know who we were and our mission there.
“Nyinyi ni akina nani na mnataka nini hapa? (Who are you and what do you want here?)” he asked. When he failed to quickly get a response, he started shouting, attracting the attention of other people in the homestead.
“We have been peaceful all along, but you are now bringing trouble,” he said.
Now growing impatient, the group turned to the EACC officers near us and who we had worked with in other raids across South Nyanza region. We hoped they would say a word that would rescue us.
But we were not lucky. A dark plump man of medium height walked towards us, followed by a group of people.
“I am in charge of Mr Obado’s security here. Just get out of here!” he said as he ordered our driver out of the compound in broken Swahili, telling us to go wait for the EACC group at Rapogi trading centre.
EACC South Nyanza director David Kang’ara, who led the operation, declined to speak to the media and instead referred us to their Nairobi office. “Please talk to our Nairobi team,” he said as he hang up.
EACC investigators are said to be finalising their graft investigations before taking suspects to court.
“The commission received credible information that a few persons well known to be proxies of the governor registered several companies for the purpose of fraudulent acquisition of public funds through fictitious contracts,” sources from EACC revealed.
Last week, the High Court ordered the unfreezing of one of the accounts believed to be a proxy used by Mr Obado to siphon the Sh2 billion.
Anti-Corruption Court Judge Hedwig Ong’udi ordered that an account operated by businessman Ernest Omondi be freed after nearly seven months of being frozen.
But Mr Obado’s handlers have said their boss was clean and was a target of witch-hunt by the investigators.
Sources said some arrests could be made in the coming days regarding the corruption claims.
Reported by Stella Cherono, Ruth Mbula and Elisha Otieno