July 24, 2019 / 8:43 AM / a month ago

Italy's CMC di Ravenna denies any wrongdoing in Kenya dams scandal

NAIROBI, July 24 (Reuters) - Italian construction company CMC di Ravenna, which faces charges in a multi-million dollar corruption scandal in Kenya, has denied any wrongdoing and is co-operating with Kenyan authorities, the firm said.

Kenyan Finance Minister Henry Rotich pleaded not guilty to corruption charges on Tuesday in connection with the loss of billions of shillings in tenders related to the planned construction of two dams.

“The company is already working with the Kenyan judicial authority to settle the matter as soon as possible,” CMC di Ravenna said in a statement issued in Italy late on Tuesday.

Kenya was set to seek the extradition of one of the company’s directors to face charges in Nairobi, the director of public prosecutions, Noordin Haji, told Reuters on Tuesday. He said the company had not cooperated with investigators.

Prosecutors accuse the company and Kenyan officials of inflating the cost of building two dams in the west of the country to 63 billion shillings ($608 million) from an original cost of 46 billion.

The government made advance payments of 19 billion shillings, including 11 billion shillings in unnecessary debt insurance, which prosecutors say was shared out in accounts belonging to the conspirators and their agents.

CMC denied any links to those arrangements.

“The accusation would refer, in fact, to the conditions of the financing, by banks of primary international standing, of the public works contracted by Kenya to CMC,” the company said.

“CMC and its representatives did not participate in the negotiations,” the company said, adding it was certain it could quickly clarify that it was not related to the matters under investigation.

Work on the two dams has not started yet, prosecutors say, an assertion the company disputes. No land where the dams are meant to be built has yet been acquired, prosecutors say.

Rotich, who was freed on 15 million shillings bail, is one of 26 people facing charges related to the dams project.

Hundreds of senior government officials and business people face charges under an anti-corruption drive launched last year by President Uhuru Kenyatta’s government.

Critics accuse Kenyatta of failing to deal with corruption during his first term, despite his promises to do so when he was first elected in 2013.

$1 = 103.7000 Kenyan shillings Reporting by Duncan Miriri in Nairobi and Stephen Jewkes in Milan; editing by Jason Neely

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