The High Court has ordered the freezing of former Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya's assets worth Ksh28.9 million.
This follows graft investigations spearheaded by the Ethics and Anti-corruption Commission (EACC) against the former governor entailing procurement fraud and conflict of interest in the award of tenders by the County Government of Kakamega during his tenure.
The fraud allegations also pit companies linked to him, which allegedly led to the loss of public funds valued at approximately Ksh1.4 billion during the financial years 2013/2014 to 2021/2022.
The orders were issued on Thursday, November 16, 2023, by Justice Esther Maina of the Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes Division of the High Court.
Justice Maina said that she was satisfied there was reasonable apprehension that unless the preservation orders are issued, the governor and other respondents may, in the intervening period, withdraw, transfer or otherwise dispose of the monies which may defeat the course of justice, before the commission completes its investigations for the intended civil recovery.
In its application filed under a Certificate of Urgency, EACC told the High Court that it reasonably suspected the frozen amount to be proceeds of corruption and economic crimes and part of monies stolen from Kakamega County Government through fraudulent tenders awarded to companies associated with Oparanya and family members.
"The respondents, their agents, servants or any other persons is prohibited from withdrawing, transferring, disposing of or in any other way dealing with all the funds held in the 3rd respondent's escrow account for the sale and purchase of a property and/or house between the 2nd and 3rd respondents howsoever so held either for and/or on behalf of the 1st or 2nd respondents," the judge ruled.
According to investigations by EACC, a portion of the preserved funds was channelled by two companies contracted by the County Government of Kakamega to perform various works, Sesela Resources Limited and Sabema International Limited, to purchase a house in Karen, called Olorua Ridge Development at a purchase price of Ksh89 million from the Local Authorities Pension Trust Registered Trustees (LAPTRUST).
It is suspected that the former Governor used a company, called Tricomp Energy Company Limited, as a vehicle to purchase the house in Karen.
The two companies are said to have wired money to advocates of the former governor, who then transferred the funds to LAPRTUST towards the purchase of the said house in Karen. EACC, in court papers, says that at one point, Sesela Resources Limited transferred Ksh10 million and Sabema International Limited Ksh5 million.
Charges against Oparanya not political - EACC
This comes days after EACC distanced itself from claims by political leaders that the recent arrest of Oparanya and his three wives was politically motivated and influenced by the government.
EACC said apart from Oparanya, it is currently investigating a total of 21 other sitting and former governors over corruption and economic crimes involving tens of billions of public funds.
They face investigations over embezzlement of public funds, conflict of interest, procurement fraud, payroll fraud mainly through ghost workers, fraudulent pending bills, and blatant disregard of laws relating to financial management.
EACC Spokesperson Eric Ngumbi in August said that the cases are at different stages of investigation and upon conclusion, the investigation files will be forwarded to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) with appropriate recommendations and where appropriate civil proceedings will be filed to recover any stolen public funds.
Ngumbi said that EACC is a law enforcement body but not a political party and as such, it will continue to conduct its investigations independently, impartially, and professionally, and in accordance with the law.
"EACC expects all leaders to abandon the culture of unleashing political attacks on institutions whenever called to account over allegations of corruption. Such attacks amount to politicization of the Commission’s work which remains a leading challenge in the fight against corruption," Ngumbi said in August.
"The commission urges political leaders to desist from politicizing and ethinicizing the work of independent offices. Such political attacks are a common gimmick applied in attempts to evade public accountability and mislead the public, who ultimately bear the painful consequences of corruption."
Oparanya and his three wives were grilled at EACC offices at Integrity Centre on August 23, 2023, after a search operation in his homes.
Other former governors being investigated by EACC include Moses Kasaine Lenolkulal (Samburu), Okoth Obado (Migori), Mike Mbuvi Sonko (Nairobi), Ferdinand Waititu (Kiambu), Sospeters Ojaamong (Busia), Evans Kidero (Nairobi), Daniel Waithaka Mwangi (Nyandarua), Mwangi wa Iria (Murang'a) and current Tharaka Nithi Governor Muthomi Njuki.