NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — The flamboyant governor of Kenya’s capital city, Nairobi, was Monday charged with 19 counts of graft-related charges as the country struggles to tackle runaway corruption.
Mike Gideon Mbuvi, widely known as Mike Sonko, denied the charges including embezzlement and money laundering. The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission alleges Mbuvi awarded contracts to friends’ companies, which after receiving payment, wired to Mbuvi’s accounts Kenyan shillings worth thousands of dollars.
Mbuvi is known for controversy and his flamboyant lifestyle, like wearing gold rings, chains, watches and clothes. He prefers being called “Sonko” which means rich man in Kenya’s Sheng slang.
A heavy police presence was deployed in the capital ahead of his court appearance after police said there was information that his supporters were planning demonstrations.
Mbuvi was arrested on Friday, after one of the biggest manhunts in Kenyan history that involved up to 200 police officers and a helicopter. He was found in the town of Voi, 204 miles (329 kilometers) from the capital.
A scuffle ensued, captured on video in which about 10 police officers are seen attempting to take Mbuvi into the helicopter as he resisted, wearing one shoe. Police have said they will charge him for resisting arrest. Mbuvi’s lawyer, Cecil Miller Jr., said Mbuvi suffered rib fractures from his encounter with the police.
Mbuvi has denied attempting to escape saying the Ethic and Anti-Corruption Commission should have just summoned him.
The state asked the court to deny Mbuvi bail because he was a flight risk. The court has moved bail application hearing to Wednesday and ordered Mbuvi be held in a remand prison until the application is determined.
This is the latest high-level arrest as Kenyan authorities attempt to tackle widespread corruption in East Africa’s economic hub. Kenya is ranked 144th out of 180 nations in Transparency International’s annual corruption perceptions index.
President Uhuru Kenyatta has been promising to take action against graft since he was elected in 2013, declaring corruption a threat to national security. Kenyatta repeated that he will tackle corruption after he won re-election in 2017. Many Kenyans, however, remain skeptical of Kenyatta’s pledges. In late 2015 Kenyatta all customs and revenue officers would be screened. That vetting has yet to take place. Despite all the anti-corruption talk, Kenya’s police routinely solicit bribes from motorists and commuters, according to many residents.
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