Hunted Obado stares at Sh2b fraud charges

De­tec­tives say that, through a brazen Sh2.3 bil­lion scam, em­bat­tled Mig­ori gov­er­nor built a home worth Sh100 mil­lion and sent at least Sh13 mil­lion to his chil­dren

Daily Nation (Kenya) - - Front Page - BY BRIAN WASUNA bwa­suna@ke.na­tion­media.com

Mig­ori County awarded a firm its gov­er­nor, Mr Okoth Obado, is be­lieved to have used to siphon over Sh2 bil­lion in a road re­pair con­tract four months af­ter the anti-graft watchdog froze its ac­counts, and in­formed the de­volved unit of on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tions.

Janto Con­struc­tion was in March awarded a ten­der to re­pair the Nyabi­sawa-jumbo Road for Sh16.8 mil­lion, which the firm com­pleted in July af­ter county of­fi­cials ex­pressed sat­is­fac­tion with the work done.

The county then paid Sh16.8 mil­lion into Janto’s KCB ac­count, which had been frozen on Novem­ber 30 last year fol­low­ing Ethics and Anti-cor­rup­tion Com­mis­sion (EACC) in­ves­ti­ga­tions into its al­leged ir­reg­u­lar pro­cure­ment prac­tices that could have cost tax­pay­ers over Sh2 bil­lion.

The EACC has nar­rowed down to 23 com­pa­nies it be­lieves Mr Obado used to win sev­eral ten­ders be­tween 2013 and last year, trac­ing Sh2.3 bil­lion to the sus­pected con­duits.

De­tec­tives have unearthed 32 com­pa­nies, 77 pieces of land and other as­sets. In June, Anti-cor­rup­tion Court Judge Hed­wig Ong’udi ex­tended the freeze or­der for four months, mean­ing it lapses on Oc­to­ber 21.

Jus­tice Ong’udi or­dered EACC to in­crease the num­ber of de­tec­tives prob­ing the pro­cure­ment al­le­ga­tions and com­plete in­ves­ti­ga­tions within the four-month win­dow.

Doc­u­ments show that Janto re­ceived at least Sh141 mil­lion through ten­ders be­tween June 13, 2014 and June 19, last year.

Mr Obado, who is sep­a­rately fac­ing mur­der charges for the al­leged killing of 26-year-old Rongo Univer­sity stu­dent Sharon Otieno, is be­lieved to have used the stolen cash to main­tain a flashy life­style for him­self and his fam­ily.

De­tec­tives say that through the pro­cure­ment scam, Mr Obado was able to build a home worth Sh100 mil­lion in Uriri in Mig­ori County and send at least Sh13 mil­lion to his chil­dren.

The EACC has been in­ves­ti­gat­ing pro­cure­ment at Mig­ori County since last Septem­ber.

On Septem­ber 24, just a day be­fore Mig­ori County sec­re­tary Christo­pher Ru­sana was to fur­nish the EACC with ten­der doc­u­ments to as­sist with in­ves­ti­ga­tions, the build­ing used as a doc­u­ment stor­age fa­cil­ity burnt down.

EACC now in­sists that the fire was an ar­son at­tack aimed at de­stroy­ing ev­i­dence that would com­plete the Sh2.5 bil­lion puz­zle.

EACC suc­cess­fully sought bank ac­count freeze orders against Jared Olu­och Kwaga, Ernest Omondi Owino, Jo­ram Opala Otieno, Pa­troba Ochanda Otieno, Beatrice Akinyi Ogutu, Kennedy Od­hi­ambo Akello, Kennedy Onyango Adongo and Hellen Od­hi­ambo Odie in Novem­ber.

Mr Kwaga, Mr Ochanda and Mr Opala are broth­ers. Their mother Pen­ina Auma has since been roped into the probe, as she is a di­rec­tor in a company they own — Ka­julu Busi­ness.

Their com­pa­nies — Janto Con­struc­tion, Marowa Stores and Mbingo En­ter­prises — are also part of the case and also have their bank ac­counts and as­sets frozen.

At the time of the freeze or­der, the ac­counts un­der probe only had Sh15.9 mil­lion.

“It is sus­pected that the afore­men­tioned was not an un­for­tu­nate fire in­ci­dent but an ar­son at­tack calculated to sub­vert the ef­forts of the com­mis­sion to get to the bot­tom of the al­le­ga­tion of theft of over Sh2.5 bil­lion from Mig­ori County,” EACC de­tec­tive Cather­ine Ngari says in court pa­pers.

Ms Ogutu and Mr Adongo, how­ever, ar­gue that the fire oc­curred be­fore EACC got the freeze or­der and that there is no ev­i­dence pre­sented to show that it was an ar­son at­tack.

“The al­le­ga­tion that the in­ves­ti­ga­tions have been ham­pered by the raz­ing of a store which kept doc­u­ments does not hold wa­ter as EACC came to this court long af­ter the oc­cur­rence. The com­mis­sion has not pre­sented an iota of sus­pi­cion to seek the re­stric­tion of my prop­erty for six months,” Mr Adongo says.

Some of the firms used in the in­tri­cate ten­der scam are Sele­track Con­sul­tants, Macte­bac Con­trac­tors, Tarch­dog Print­ers and Del­track ICT Ser­vices, which court doc­u­ments in­di­cate are un­der Mr Opala’s con­trol.

Mr Ochanda is be­lieved to have been in con­trol of Swyf­con En­gi­neer­ing, Joyush Busi­ness and Dol­phus Busi­ness.

Mr Kwaga’s wife Chris­tine Akinyi Ochola owns At­i­nus Ser­vices and Dankey Press.

Mr Ru­sana has now been dragged into the probe, af­ter de­tec­tives traced sus­pi­cious pay­ments to him from the Obado-as­so­ci­ated firms, now be­lieved to be kick­backs.

The county sec­re­tary re­ceived Sh2.2 mil­lion from Ka­julu Busi­ness, which is one of the 32 firms be­lieved to be Mr Obado’s prox­ies. EACC says it will seek as­sis­tance from China, Hong Kong and Aus­tralia where the sus­pected firms sent mil­lions of shillings.

The em­bat­tled gov­er­nor sent Sh1.9 mil­lion to his daugh­ter Su­san at the Univer­sity of Aberdeen in De­cem­ber 2014 through Mr Kwaga. In Au­gust 2016, Mr Obado sent Sh12.2 mil­lion to his son Dan Achola Okoth in Syd­ney, Aus­tralia, through Mr Opala.

JEFF ANGOTE | NA­TION

Mig­ori County Gov­er­nor Okoth Obado at the Mil­i­mani Law Courts yes­ter­day on a mur­der charge. He was re­manded for two more days.

BEN­SON MOMANYI | NA­TION

A pupil in Mig­ori County erects a bump along Tongo Riosiri Road last week. The anti-graft com­mis­sion is in­ves­ti­gat­ing sev­eral com­pa­nies in the county over theft of funds through road con­struc­tion projects.

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