NAIROBI (TrustLaw) – A ruling by Kenya’s High Court has made it more difficult to recover property obtained through suspected corruption.
The ruling follows attempts to seize the assets of a government employee Stanley Amuti who had amassed a small fortune in bank accounts and property while on a salary of Sh180,031 ($ 2,219) a month, according to the East African Standard and Daily Nation newspapers.
The Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission (KACC) found that Amuti had Ksh310,000 (US$ 3,818) in cash in his office, another Ksh 4 million (US$ 49,261) in his house, and a further Ksh 141 million (US$ 1.7 million) in six bank accounts, one of which was with National Westminster Bank in Britain.
He also allegedly owed four cars, two houses in Nairobi and five plots of land, with a total value of Ksh 32.5 million (US$ 400,641).
Amuti was financial controller for the National Water Conservation and Pipeline Corporation when the investigation began in 2008.
Suspecting this wealth had been acquired through corruption, the KACC instituted civil proceedings against Amuti to recover the assets.
It used the 2003 Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes Act which says that the court can ask someone owning unexplained assets to prove how they acquired them if the KACC believes that they were earned through graft.
Amuti hired a top lawyer, Kioko Kilukumi, to defend himself.
Kilukumi argued that the KACC and the 2003 Act violated Amuti’s constitutional rights by asking him to explain where the millions of shillings had come from, the Standard said.
Kenya’s new constitution, introduced last August, provides for protection against arbitrary deprivation of property except “any property that has been found to have been acquired unlawfully”.
Kilukumi argued that it was up to the KACC to prove that Amuti had stolen the $2.2 million worth of money, cars and property, rather than for Amuti to prove his innocence.
The Standard said the 2003 law would have to be amended.
Kilukumi has been in the spotlight recently because he was appointed the new Director of Public Prosecutions. However, the courts ruled that the nominations were unconstitutional and they are under review.
Corruption is endemic in east Africa's biggest economy. The KACC says graft costs an estimated 30-40 percent of Kenya's gross domestic product.
Analysts say weak laws and a slow judicial system have hampered the KACC's anti-corruption battle.
No Kenyan minister has ever been convicted of corruption despite the fact that the current government came to power on an anti-corruption platform in 2002.