Kenyan rail operator sold its own land to itself for SGR rail scheme, prosecutors say

The chairman of Kenya’s National Lands Commission (NLC) and the managing director of the country’s rail operator, Kenya Railways, were among 14 officials to deny fraud charges today in a sensational corruption probe.

The national prosecutor alleges the group attempted to defraud the government of more than $2m (222 million shillings) through the purchase of land needed for the Standard Gauge Railway (SCR) mega scheme – land that operator Kenya Railways already owned.

The NLC chairman Muhammad Swazuri and its chief executive Tom Chavangi, plus two senior NLC commissioners were among seven arrested over the weekend after an investigation by detectives from Kenya’s Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission.

Kenya Railways managing director Atanas Maina is also charged.

Swazuri pleaded not guilty to charges, among them the charge of conspiring to commit corruption which the prosecution claims led to the loss of public funds.

The NLC boss faced five other counts of abuse of office and an alternative charge of breach of trust while Kenya Railways MD Atanas Maina faced two counts of conspiracy to defraud and breach of trust.

The $3.2bn Mombasa-to-Nairobi SGR, financed and built by China, opened to fanfare in May 2017.

Another leg onward from Nairobi to the country’s northwestern frontier is under construction.

Image: National Lands Commission chairman Muhammad Swazuri, third from left, and Kenya Railways managing director Atanas Maina, second from left, in court today (ODPP Kenya, the National Prosecution Authority, via Twitter)

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