Kenyan government officials charged with fraud over Chinese railway line

13 Aug 18

The National Prosecution Authority in Kenya has charged two government officials with fraud over the building of a $3.2bn Chinese-funded railway line.

The head of the agency that manages public land and the boss of the state railway are accused of paying more than $2bn public money in compensation to private firms, which they knew were falsely claiming to own land through which the line ran.

The Ministry of Lands, the National Land Commission and the Kenya Railways Corporation were all found to be involved.

Chairman of the NLC Mohammed Abdella Swazuri was charged with conspiring to commit corruption, while Atanas Kariuki Maina of the Kenya Railway was charged with abuse of office, breach of trust and conspiracy to defraud.

The two officials were charged with 15 others, including the business people and company owners involved. They have all pleaded not guilty to the charges, which included unlawful acquisition of public property, unlawful disposal of public property and neglect of official duty.

The line linking Nairobi and Mombasa was funded by China and is one of the biggest infrastructure projects under president Uhuru Kenyatta, who has pledged to combat corruption.

The railway project registered losses of $100m in its first year of operation in July.

The Kenyan government dismissed concerns that the railway was overpriced and unsustainable.

Repayments of the Chinese loan begin next year but if the project does not break even, Kenyan taxpayers could bear the burden, the BBC reported earlier this year.

However, the government said it hopes the railway will start making a profit in the next financial year.

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