Kenya’s finance minister Henry Rotich arrested on corruption charges

Kenya’s Finance Minister Henry Rotich and other treasury officials have been arrested on corruption and fraud charges related to a multimillion-dollar project to build two massive dams, police said.

Henry Rotich was arrested on Monday on suspicion of financial misconduct related to the construction of two dams, an unprecedented detention of a sitting minister for corruption in a country notorious for graft.

Charges against Rotich, announced on Monday, stem from a police investigation into the misuse of funds in a dam project overseen by the Italian construction company CMC di Ravenna.

Rotich denied any wrongdoing in a large newspaper advertisement in March. The company has previously denied any wrongdoing. 

Rotich and his co-accused face eight charges, ranging from conspiring to defraud and financial misconduct, Noordin Haji, the director of public prosecutions, said. The minister and other officials will have to resign immediately, he said.

Rotich’s arrest marks the first time a sitting Kenyan minister has been arrested on corruption charges, in a country where graft is widespread. The charges against him stem from a police investigation into the misuse of funds in a dam project overseen by the Italian construction company CMC Di Ravenna.

Rotich denied any wrongdoing in a large newspaper advertisement in March. The company has also denied any wrongdoing.

The minister will be charged along with 27 other people, including Italian Paolo Porcelli, the director of CMC di Ravenna; and Rotich’s number two at the ministry, Kamau Thugge, the principal secretary.

The two dams in the project were budgeted to cost 46 billion shillings ($446 million, €396 million), but the treasury ended up borrowing 63 billion shillings instead, according to Haji.

The allegedly fraudulent deals further ballooned Kenya’s already massive public debt, which currently stands at around 55% of GDP.

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