Kenyan authorities have arrested seven officials with the China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) for bribing investigators looking into corruption tied to the Standard Gauge Railway, the Daily Nation, one of Kenya’s largest newspapers, reported Sunday.
The arrests mark the first time Chinese officials have faced charges linked to the SGR, which has garnered controversy since the inaugural run between Nairobi, the capital, and Mombasa, a major coastal city, in mid 2017.
Agents with the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) arrested three Chinese nationals and four Kenyan officials, all of whom work for the CRBC and will face charges in court Monday, according to The Nation.
The EACC said on Twitter the bribe totaled 500,000 Kenyan shillings, or about $4,850.
The Nation cited unnamed sources with the railway who claimed the fraud under investigation amounts to about 1 million Kenyan shillings a day, or about $9,700.
Based on an estimated 4,000 daily ticket sales and an average ticket price of $15.50, more than 15 percent of daily revenue may be subject to fraud.
The more than $3 billion SGR launched in May 2017 amid much fanfare, but has been tarnished by allegations of corruption and racism, and concerns about its economic viability.
Nicknamed the “Madaraka Express,” the Nairobi-Mombasa line connects Kenya’s two largest cities and was billed as a way to cut travel time and bolster the economy.
But project costs ballooned as the work progressed, and some observers say the Kenyan government overpaid for the project, which replaced the colonial-era, British-built “Lunatic Express” line.
Sunday’s arrests aren’t the first corruption charges tied to the SGR.
In August, two top Kenyan officials were charged with corruption tied to land acquisition for the railway. At the time, the prosecutor’s office identified more than a dozen other Kenyan officials and businesspeople who had been arrested.