The heads of the public land agency and the state railways ministry in Kenya have been arrested on corruption charges over land allocation, Reuters reported Saturday.
Mohammed Abdalla Swazuri, the chairman of National Land Commission and Atanas Kariuki Maina, managing director of the Kenya Railways Corporation are accused of misappropriation of $3 billion for a new Nairobi-Mombasa railway, according to the report.
The line connects Nairobi with East Africa’s largest port. The railway is one of the biggest initiatives in the country under Kenya president Uhuru Kenyatta, who launched an anti-corruption drive this year.
The suspects are two of 18 officials and businesspeople who have been arrested. On the country’s prosecutor’s Twitter page, a statement explains that previous suspicions of misconduct led to an investigation, which led to the arrests.
“The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission received information concerning alleged criminal activities involving National Land Commission (NLC), Kenya Railways Corporation (KRC) and the Ministry of Lands and Physical Planning touching on fraudulent acquisition of public property and other related corrupt activities,” the statement reads.
The statement continues: “Following the report, the Commission embarked on investigations which established that the Ministry of Lands and Physical Planning irregularly allocated and registered parcels of land situated on the Railway Reserve. Further, NLC officials fully cognizant of that fact proceeded to irregularly and illegally award and compensate the entities and persons in whose favour the fraudulent registration had been done.”
Opposition leaders and economists have disparaged production of the railway, stating that it has crippled the Kenyan economy. The IMF reported that the railway took away more than half of the country’s GDP in the 2017-2018 year, the report reveals.