Kenya’s public prosecutor said on Wednesday 24 civil servants and business people charged with involvement in the theft of nearly $100 million of public funds will stay in custody pending a June 4 hearing on their application for bail.
The suspects, who include the public service ministry’s principal secretary, pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to magistrate Douglas Ogoti to charges that relate to theft at the government’s National Youth Service (NYS).
“Accused to be remanded in custody until Monday 4th June, 2018 when court will rule on their bail application,” the office of the director of public prosecution said on Twitter.
These people who are corrupt should be jailed and we recover all the stolen funds to deliver on the things we promised Kenyans.
The NYS is a state agency that trains young people and deploys them to work on projects ranging from construction to traffic control.
It is rare for prosecutors to bring such a large group of public officials to court to answer corruption charges.
Kenyatta tells suspects to ‘carry own cross’
President Uhuru Kenyatta pledged to stamp out graft when he was first elected in 2013 but critics say he has been slow to pursue top officials and ministers.
In the wake of the latest NYS scandal, the president vowed to recover all resources that have been lost to corruption schemes.
“These people who are corrupt should be jailed and we recover all the stolen funds to deliver on the things we promised Kenyans,” Kenyatta told residents of the capital Nairobi while launching a government project on Wednesday.
The president also called out any Kenyans that might entertain the notion of defending people implicated in the scandal, based on their ethnicity.
“I do not want to hear anybody defending those caught in corrupt dealings. A thief is a thief irrespective of the tribe he/she comes from,” said the president.
Chief prosecutor Noordin Mohamed Haji on Monday named 54 people, 40 of them government officials, to face charges including abuse of office and conspiracy to commit an economic crime. Some of those charged remain at large.
The prosecutor’s office also tweeted that it had applied for arrest warrants for suspects who failed to turn up in court on Tuesday, or that they could surrender to the police.
Diplomats urge Kenya to decisively deal with corruption
Ambassadors from 18 Western diplomatic missions including the United States, Britain and Canada issued a statement on Wednesday welcoming Tuesday’s indictments and saying they stood “with Kenyans in the fight against corruption”.
The diplomats, noting their governments provide “wide-ranging assistance” to the Kenyan government, praised the investigation into the alleged looting of funds at the NYS and urged the judiciary “to ensure fair trials and justice”.
“Corruption has long undermined Kenya’s prosperity, security and democracy,” the statement said. “It is, quite simply, theft from the Kenyan people.”
The diplomats included ambassadors, high commissioners and head of delegation of the European Union, Sweden, Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Czech Republic, Slovak Republic, Ireland, United Kingdom, Denmark, Switzerland, Finland, Australia, Canada, Poland, Romania and Norway.