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Britain Denies Visas to Two Prominent Kenyan Politicians

Britain has canceled travel visas for Kenya's environment minister, a high-profile member of parliament and two others because of their alleged ties to corruption scandals. Nick Wadhams reports from VOA's Nairobi bureau.

The British High Commission in Nairobi confirmed that it had issued an airline alert revoking four visas.

Spokesman Alex Budden issued a statement saying: "We do have policies in place whereby we will use visa bans to the UK for those who we do believe are heavily involved in corruption in Kenya."

The High Commission would not name those for whom the travel ban was issued. However, Kenya's Standard newspaper said it had obtained a copy of the alert given to airlines listing the four. It identified them as Environment Minister David Mwiraria and Nicholas Biwott, a former minister, as well as two brothers who run a bank that has been accused of tax evasion.

The paper quoted the alert as saying their visas had been revoked.

The move comes less than a week before presidential and parliamentary elections December 27 in which President Mwai Kibaki is seeking a new term.

Kenyan government spokesman Alfred Mutua refused to comment on the ban. In 2004, Biwott was also barred from travel to the United States.

President Mwai Kibaki came to power in 2002 vowing to stamp out corruption that marked the 24-year rule of Daniel arap Moi, but his government has itself been consumed by graft scandals.

Both Mwiraria and Biwott have been implicated in corruption scandals. Mwiraria had resigned from the Cabinet in 2006 because of alleged links to what became known as the Anglo-Leasing scandal, in which some $250 million in government funds were paid to bogus firms for a new passport system that was never delivered. Mwiraria denies involvement. No one has been convicted in the case.

Mwiraria was reappointed last year along with other ministers whose careers were thought to have been sunk by corruption allegations. Those reappointments were strongly criticized at the time.

A Scotland Yard investigation into the 1990 murder of Foreign Minister Robert Ouko named Biwott as a suspect. A Kenyan inquiry later determined that there was insufficient evidence to press charges against him.

Britain has been a strong critic of Mr. Kibaki's government over corruption, and that has soured relations between the two countries.