Nairobi governor arrested for 'economic crimes'

Friday December 06 2019

Flamboyant Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko has been airlifted to Nairobi following his arrest just hours after orders by chief prosecutor Noordin Haji.


A police helicopter takes off to Nairobi from Ikanga airstrip with Governor Mike Sonko. PHOTO | LUCY MKANYIKA | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Sonko, who recently posted on social media videos of his swanky office and house parties, was arrested at a road block in Voi while headed to Mombasa from Nairobi in a bid to escape arrest.

Once in the capital, he is expected be processed and face subsequent arraignment later Friday.

Haji had Friday morning he had sufficient evidence to prosecute Sonko and other county officials for "unlawful acquisition of public property, money laundering and other economic crimes."
"I have therefore ordered for the immediate arrest and arraignment in court of the Governor of Nairobi Hon Mike Mbuvi Sonko and other persons," Haji said in a statement.

The City County boss and others are expected to appear before the anti-corruption court Friday to face charges over the loss of Ksh357 million ($3.5 million).


Other City Hall officials expected in court are county secretary Peter Mbugua, members of the tender committee Patrick Mwangangi, Samuel Ndung'u, Edwin Kariuki, Lawrence Mwangi, and Preston Miriti, among others.

The prosecution also ordered the arrest of directors of various companies that he said had been contracted by the county government for various services and are liable for money laundering to a tune of Ksh24.1 million ($240,000).

They include Webtribe Ltd CEO Danson Muchemi, director Robert Muriithi and agent Zablon Onyango. ROG Security Ltd director Anthony Ombok is also implicated along with Yiro Enterprise partner Fredrick Odhiambo.

The governor and the officials will face charges of conspiracy to commit an economic crime, willful failure to comply with the law and conflict of interest.

Haji added investigations by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) had yielded sufficient evidence to sustain the charges.

It was seen as a maverick move when, in 2017, the ruling party chose populist Mike Sonko as its candidate for Nairobi's gubernatorial poll, a controversial politician who has spent time in jail and has had to deny allegations of illegal activities, including drug trafficking.

Since his election, Sonko has chosen to operate from his rural home in Machakos, 60 kilometres (37 miles) southeast of Nairobi.

He is beloved by poor Kenyans for running his personally branded fire trucks and ambulances to assist people living in the slums.

He is also known for wearing expensive gold jewellery and bright golden shoes and recently drew criticism for displaying his opulent dining room on social media.

Kenya has for decades battled the scourge of corruption, and President Uhuru Kenyatta -- like many presidents before him -- has vowed to combat graft.

Dozens of top executives and government officials have been charged since Kenyatta's 2017 re-election, including sitting Finance Minister Henry Rotich who was in July charged over an alleged multi-million dollar corruption scandal.

—Additional reporting by AFP.