Kenya court blocks charges against central bank governor

NAIROBI Fri Feb 14, 2014 5:23am EST

Kenya's Central Bank Governor Njuguna Ndung'u speaks to Reuters during an interview at his office in Nairobi November 24, 2008. . REUTERS/ Antony Njuguna

Kenya's Central Bank Governor Njuguna Ndung'u speaks to Reuters during an interview at his office in Nairobi November 24, 2008. .

Credit: Reuters/ Antony Njuguna

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NAIROBI (Reuters) - Kenya's High Court blocked government agencies from pursuing claims of abuse of office against the head of the central bank, his lawyer said on Friday, pushing back a decision on a case that could trigger economic ructions.

The country's chief prosecutor this week ordered the Ethics and Anti Corruption Commission (EACC) to charge Governor Njuguna Ndung'u in a case related to the award of a tender to install security software at the bank.

The governor, who has denied involvement in the case, lodged a High Court petition on Wednesday against the order.

The court ruled on Friday that neither the EACC nor other authorities could arrest or charge Ndung'u until the petition was heard, his lawyer Donald Kipkorir told Reuters in a text message.

The petition is due to be heard next month.

If charged, the governor would be suspended from office, creating uncertainty in east Africa's biggest economy at a time when many emerging markets are being buffeted by cuts to U.S. monetary stimulus, although Kenya has so far escaped unscathed.

Kenya is also in the process of issuing a debut Eurobond worth up to $2 billion, with marketing scheduled to start this month.

"We are going to abide with the court order," EACC spokesman Amaro Yassin told Reuters.

In documents submitted to the High Court in Nairobi on Wednesday, Ndung'u said he was not involved in the tender process and that the tender was awarded by an authorized body.

The documents said the Ndung'u was at the time in Paris attending an event in his official capacity.

Ndung'u, who became central bank governor in 2007, weathered a political storm in 2012 after parliament tried to oust him over currency turmoil in 2011, when the shilling weakened sharply and inflation soared.

(Writing by James Macharia; Editing by John Stonestreet)

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