NAIROBI Feb 8 Kenyan investigators arrested the
former chief executive of the electoral commission and two
others in dawn raids on Wednesday, the latest twist of a scandal
that has already led to Britain's first conviction of a company
for foreign bribery.
The scandal is one of several to engulf the administration
of President Uhuru Kenyatta, who is under increasing pressure to
curb endemic corruption before elections due in August.
On Wednesday, former election official James Oswago was
charged in court with receiving bribes from Trevy Oyombra, the
agent for British firm Smith and Ouzman Ltd, a printing firm
that won contracts to print election material in past votes.
The men appeared in court with Hamida Ali, who covered her
face with a golden veil stamped with the Chanel logo as
prosecutors alleged she facilitated payments using her bank
account. All three have denied any wrongdoing.
Prosecutors say the accused used the word "chicken" to refer
to cash, asking "have you eaten the chicken?" as code for
"As long as Kenyans can see that some people have been taken
to court over what has been popularly been known as the
Chickengate scandal, we believe that the current commission is
going to be much more careful in its observance of the
procurement laws," said Julius Muraya, a deputy director at the
Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission.
After an investigation by Britain's Serious Fraud Office
(SFO), a London court convicted the chairman and marketing
manager of Smith and Ouzman Ltd in 2014 of paying nearly 500,000
pounds ($620,000) in bribes, the SFO's website said.
As plainclothes officers ushered Oswago into a vehicle at
his Nairobi home, he protested his innocence and said he was
being unfairly targeted.
"This is done for the Kenyan public to believe that the
anti-corruption commission are doing something about corruption
in Kenya," he said.
Oswago and other officials were charged in 2014 in cases
related to the procurement of voter identification devices and
solar lanterns. Those two cases have not yet been concluded.
The government is also facing other corruption scandals,
including allegations of missing funds in the Health Ministry
and National Youth Service.
Adding to pressure on the president in the build up to the
August vote, university lecturers and doctors in state hospitals
have been on strike for weeks over pay and working conditions.
($1 = 103.7000 Kenyan shillings)
($1 = 0.8006 pounds)
(Editing by Edmund Blair and Andrew Heavens)