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Kenya Threatens to Prosecute Officials who Failed to Declare Assets

Kenya's justice minister says thousands of Kenyan government officials, including dozens of members of the parliament, could face steep fines and prison for failing to declare their personal wealth.

The 65 legislators are among thousands of civil servants who have yet to file their annual wealth report, as required by Kenya's anti-corruption law.

The declarations of assets were due in May. Kenya's justice minister, Kiraitu Murungi, says he will take officials who failed to file the report to court. If convicted, the officials face steep fines and up to a year in jail.

Keriako Tobiko, the director of Kenya's public prosecutors' office, says it's the first time the justice ministry has decided to prosecute public officials for failing to file their wealth declarations. But, so far, no lawsuits have been filed.

"If we get the files and it is confirmed that they have not filed their wealth declarations, I'll immediately begin prosecution," said Mr. Tobiko. "I don't have any file on my desk yet. I will simply wait for them."

The annual wealth declarations were part of President Mwai Kibaki's campaign to rid Kenya of rampant corruption. But, despite the law and the president's promises to clean up his government, Kenya ranks among the world's most corrupt countries on Transparency International's latest index.

Western governments also have publicly expressed doubt about President Kibaki's commitment to fight corruption.

The wealth reports are not accessible to the public and it is illegal to publish them. So far, attempts by civic groups to have the law amended to make the reports public have failed.