Kenyan MP in Sh100m extortion saga

May 20, 2010 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, May 20 – The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is now accusing a Member of Parliament of orchestrating claims that Kenya fraudulently purchased property for its embassy in Japan, after his advances for a bribe were rejected.

The property in question which has been housing the Kenyan Mission since 1989 was acquired by the government within the past year at Sh1.524 billion.

Foreign Affairs Minister Moses Wetangula said on Thursday that the MP demanded Sh100 million but when it was not forthcoming, he hatched a media onslaught to imply that the acquisition was fraudulent.

“I have been asked for the money and the Permanent Secretary has been tormented. Where would a minister or a PS get money to pay an MP and for what? What are we trying to hide? What are we paying for? Do I look like I have Sh100 million?  And if I had the money perhaps I would take leave and hide away and budget on how to spend it,” he said.

Mr Wetangula also said that the MP who sits on the Departmental Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence had been passing inaccurate information to the press regarding the purchase after the ministry declined to bribe him.

“He has been attempting to extort money from this ministry in exchange for not passing onto the media information about this transaction. He came and said there is a fraud here… people have eaten Sh600 million after the transaction; can I have my Sh100 million out of it?" he said.

He added that the decision to buy the property in Tokyo had been made after a comprehensive analysis of all the existing options and that the process was well documented.

Mr Wetangula said that both he and PS Thuita Mwangi would record statements with the police regarding the extortion attempt.

“I’ve instructed my PS to swear an affidavit and pass it on to the authorities and I will also swear one. We even had a meeting with the Prime Minister this morning and after walking him through our entire process, he was very surprised at what he had been reading in the media,” he said.  

The Foreign Affairs Minister further took issue with the parliamentary committee’s failure to put on record the response given by various government ministries that were involved in the acquisition.

“We were horrified to find that the statements made in the media were made off the record. They are not on any Hansard report and yet these are proceedings of Parliament that must be permanent records. I now cannot use the report to respond to what Hon James Orengo (Lands Minister), Hon Chris Obure (Public Works Minister) and anybody else said,” he added.

According to the Foreign Affairs Minister, it was a former Ambassador who asked the government to buy property occupied by the Mission.

The property owners gave an initial offer of Sh1.48 billion but Kenya couldn’t afford it. The Ambassador proposed that the money for purchase be raised through credit from Tokyo Mitsubishi UFJ Bank with Kenya guaranteeing the loan.

Kenya however declined the proposal due to the likely negative effects on the external debt situation of the country.

“High living costs in Tokyo meant the Mission paid rents of Sh2.9 million per month payable 12 months in advance since 1989 – when Kenya first based an embassy in Tokyo. By 2009, rent had risen to Sh48 million per year. The government therefore prioritised the acquisition of the property in Tokyo,” said Mr Wetangula.

Kenya also initiated a process of identifying alternative property but none of the plots identified met Kenya’s specifications and the government continued pursuing efforts to acquire the property rented out by the Mission at the time.

In January 2009 the owner of the property agreed to sell it but at Sh1.524 billion down from Sh1.654 billion instead of the initial Sh1.48 billion offer.

Kenya was to pay for the property in monthly instalments. The first payment was made in June 2009 and the final payment was to be made on September 1 the same year.

However due to budgetary constraints it was paid on January 15, 2010.

The cost of running the Mission in Japan has been the highest for Kenya and the purchase made by government saved the country Sh48 million per year in rent.


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