Kenya court drops ex-minister's graft charge

Reuters News
Posted: Jun 28, 2012 10:11 AM
Kenya court drops ex-minister's graft charge

By Humphrey Malalo

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Kenya's High Court quashed corruption charges against a former minister on Thursday, the latest case of a high-level politician shaking off graft accusations in the east African country that is struggling to clean up public life.

Henry Kosgey, who resigned from his post as industrialization minister to allow for investigations, denied abuse of office over illegal car imports.

Kenya's anti-corruption authority had accused him of giving exemptions for the importation of more than a hundred cars older than the eight-year legal limit and waiving taxes on them. He petitioned the High Court to quash the charges.

"I hold the view that the charges brought against former industrialization minister would amount to an abuse of the court process, and I prohibit the chief magistrate or any other magistrate in Kenya from hearing on those charges against the former minister," Judge Nicholas Ombija said in his ruling.

Corruption has blighted the image of east Africa's biggest economy for decades and many Kenyans view efforts to stamp it out as ineffective.

At least six other ministers have been suspended or forced to step aside over corruption allegations since President Mwai Kibaki came to power on an anti-graft platform in 2002.

Four regained their cabinet posts after their cases never made it to court. Others have been accused of graft but declined to step aside.

Kosgey, who is also chairman of Prime Minister Raila Odinga's Orange Democratic Movement party, could be re-instated to the coalition that rules Kenya in a power-sharing deal between the ODM and Kibaki's Party of National Unity.

Kosgey was investigated by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for being behind Kenya's 2007-08 post-election violence in which more than 1,200 people were killed and hundreds of thousands displaced.

The ICC did not confirm the charges against Kosgey, with judges saying there was insufficient evidence.

In April 2011, former Higher Education Minister William Ruto was acquitted of graft charges over the sale of forest land.

Ruto and three others, including Uhuru Kenyatta, Kenya's former finance minister, face trial at the Hague charged with directing violence after the disputed election.

(Writing by James Macharia; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)