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Prominent Kenyans Face UK Extradition Over Money Laundering Charges

Kenya's Justice Minister Mutula Kilonzo (2010 file photo)

Kenya's Justice Minister Mutula Kilonzo (2010 file photo)

Two prominent Kenyans are facing extradition to the United Kingdom where they have been charged with money laundering. The development is raising hopes for success in Kenya's war on graft.

On Tuesday, Kenyan Justice Minister Mutula Kilonzo told reporters in Nairobi that Kenya had no choice but to extradite a former minister and the former managing director of the Kenya Power and Lighting Company to the United Kingdom.

“The time for Kenya to join other countries that respect the rule of law is now. Comply with the law and facilitate those Kenya citizens to answer those charges where the courts have issued the warrants,” said Kilonzo.

Kilonzo was responding to questions regarding current member of parliament Chris Okemo and former utility official Samuel Gichuru. Both Okemo and Gichuru are wanted on the British island of Jersey to face charges of money laundering.

Late Monday, Attorney General Amos Wako submitted extradition requests from the United Kingdom, along with a report from Police Commissioner Matthew Iteere, to Chief Public Prosecutor Keriako Tobiko for consideration.

“I am handing over the request to Mr. Keriako Tobiko, the chief public prosecutor, to confirm if a prima facie case exists against both men,” said Wako.

Tobiko will decide whether or not the extradition request is valid based on the strength of the evidence submitted by the United Kingdom. If Tobiko approves, Wako will then issue orders for the arrest and extradition of both Okemo and Gichuru.

Okemo served as Kenya’s energy minister from 1999 until 2001, and as finance minister until 2003. Both men are accused of storing illegally earned money - including bribes and misappropriated public funds - in British bank accounts.

Kenya has a reputation as one of the most corrupt countries in Africa. President Mwai Kibaki has promised to fight graft, but under his rule Kenya's record in dealing with corruption has been mixed, at best.

Kenya's foreign minister, industrialization minister and higher education minister have all been forced to resign in the past six months stemming from charges of fraud or abuse of office. The case against former Higher Education Minister William Ruto was dropped after a judge deemed the evidence insufficient.

In return for the extradition of Okemo and Gichuru to Jersey, it was revealed that Britain was prepared to help locate and extradite Kenyan citizen Yagnesh Devani. Devani is wanted in Kenya for stealing nearly $100 million worth of oil from the Kenyan Pipeline Company.