Kenya's Finance Minister Henry Rotich and other treasury officials have been arrested on corruption and fraud charges related to a multi-million dollar project to build two massive dams, police said. Rotich, his principal secretary and the chief executive of Kenya's environmental authority handed themselves in to the police after the country's chief prosecutor, Noordin Haji, ordered the arrest of Rotich and 27 other top officials on Monday.
"They are in custody now awaiting to be taken to court," police chief George Kinoti told AFP news agency.
"We are looking for [the] others and they will all go to court."
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 suspects face eight charges, ranging from conspiring to defraud and financial misconduct, Haji told a news conference earlier on Monday.
"They broke the law on public finance management under the guise of carrying out legitimate commercial transactions, colossal amounts were unjustifiably and illegally paid out through a well choreographed scheme by government officers in collusion with private individuals and institutions," Haji said.
The two dams were budgeted to cost $446m, he said, but the treasury borrowed far more.
"The national treasury negotiated a commercial facility increasing the amount to approximately 63bn shillings ($609m) - which is 17bn ($164m) more than necessary or required, payable on a timely basis without regard to a performance or works," he said.
The indictment of Rotich will send shockwaves through the political elite, who are accustomed to lurid graft scandals resulting in little official action.
Rotich's arrest may also be seen as further evidence of growing distance between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto.
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