The Attorney General has given the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission the green light to charge Cabinet minister Henry Kosgey for abuse of office.
The latest turn of events will be a double blow to the Industrialisation minister who might also face charges of crimes against humanity if the International Criminal Court gives its chief prosecutor, Mr Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the nod to prosecute him as one of the masterminds of the post-election violence in which 1,133 people were killed in 2008.
Monday’s decision by the AG was also confirmed by the KACC Director, Prof. PLO Lumumba, who late last year said his organisation was investigating up to 80 politicians and top government officials in the intensified war against corruption.
“I can confirm that we have just received a letter from the AG’s office advising us to charge the said minister,” Prof Lumumba told the Nation on phone on Monday.
The revelations of grand corruption involving the importation of vehicles aged more than eight years stirred protests both in the public and private sectors, prompting the anti-corruption commission to summon Mr Kosgey to its Integrity House headquarters in Nairobi for questioning on November 3, last year.
After the session, the minister told journalists he had been invited to verify the import documents of 67 vehicles that were more than eight years old which Kenya Revenue Authority officials had seized.
A source at the AG’s office said that Mr Amos Wako had agreed with the recommendations made by the KACC that Mr Kosgey had a case to answer over the vehicle importation scandal.
“He (the AG) has directed that cabinet minister Henry Kosgey be arrested and charged with eight counts of abuse of office in relation to exemption he gave for the importation of motor vehicles more than eight years old. Files containing instructions have been sent to KACC for action,” the source told the Nation.
The AG made the decision after studying the files handed to him last year by the KACC.
It is alleged that Mr Kosgey gave exemptions for the importation of hundreds of cars against the eight-years age limit for used vehicles.
Some of the cars were later detained by Kenya Revenue Authority owing to documentation queries.
Ndaragwa MP Jeremiah Kioni tabled a letter in Parliament signed by the Kenya Bureau of Standards showing that 454 vehicles over the mandatory age had been exempted and allowed into the country in the last six months.
However, defending himself in Parliament, Mr Kosgey said he only allowed the importation of an old car belonging to his bodyguard’s friend.
The minister also dismissed calls from backbenchers to step aside, pending investigations.
“The question of my stepping aside does not arise. I am not ready to step aside. My visit to KACC (headquarters) is now public knowledge,” stated Mr Kosgey, who said he had no personal interest in the matter.
By the time the matter came to Parliament, the minister’s official police bodyguard had already been arrested and charged over the vehicle imports.
Water minister Charity Ngilu is also on the spot over alleged flawed procurement in the construction of dams and price inflations at her ministry.
Mrs Ngilu has, however, come out fighting, accusing cartels at the ministry of sabotaging her efforts to fight corruption. She also accused former assistant and Laikipia East MP Mwangi Kiunjuri of fronting for some cartels. If charged, Mr Kosgey will be expected to step aside as minister.
Last year, President Kibaki suspended Higher Education minister William Ruto after High Court judges ruled that the Eldoret North MP must face corruption charges relating to the sale of land to the Kenya Pipeline Corporation.
Foreign minister Moses Wetang’ula and his permanent secretary, Mr Thuita, were also forced to leave office after the Parliamentary Committee on Defence and Foreign Relations accused them of abetting corruption in the purchase of diplomatic properties in Tokyo, Islamabad, Abuja and Brussels.
City mayor Geophrey Majiwa was forced out after being arraigned in court to answer corruption charges related to the Sh283 million purchase of land for a cemetery in Mavoko.
Early this year, the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission charged 12 people, who included vehicle importers, clearing and forwarding agents, Kenya Bureau of Standards and KRA employees, in connection with a racket in which vehicles of more than eight years were finding their way into the local market.
According to KACC, the vehicle importation racket had resulted in Kenyans paying high prices for the cars believing that they were less than eight years, while some were more than 10 years old.
The racketeers targeted top-of-the-range vehicles including Toyota Prados, LandCruisers and Pajeros, which they later sold to influential businessmen and politicians.