* Duo facing corruption charges in Jersey
* British minister pushes for their extradition
By Humphrey Malalo
NAIROBI, May 24 (Reuters) - Kenya has agreed to extradite two high-profile personalities wanted by Britain on money laundering charges if Nairobi’s prosecution authorities confirm a case exists against them.
Chrysanthus Okemo, a member of parliament and former finance minister, and Samuel Gichuru, a former managing director of Kenya’s sole power supply utility the Kenya Power & Lighting Co. Ltd. (KPLC.NR), are wanted in Jersey on corruption charges.
The duo face jail terms of 14 years if convicted.
Analysts say graft has tarnished east Africa’s biggest economy for decades, stifling growth and discouraging investors. There is growing frustration that senior officials get away with flagrant theft, which has tarnished Kenya’s image.
International donors have long called for a genuine crackdown on high-profile corruption. President Mwai Kibaki came to power in 2002 on an anti-graft platform but no minister has yet been convicted of graft.
The charges state Gichuru accepted bribes from foreign firms that contracted with KPLC and hid the money in Jersey, and that some payments were made to Okemo in his capacity as finance minister and at another stage while he was energy minister.
“Both Gichuru and Okemo were public officers. The receipt of these bribes was not only greedy and dishonest but amounted to criminal offences involving bribes,” said an arrest warrant issued by a Jersey court.
Kenya’s Attorney-General Amos Wako handed over the warrants to Director of Public Prosecutions Keriako Tobiko on Monday to determine whether there was a case for extradition.
“The request to extradite the two Kenyans will be processed in accordance with our extradition laws, procedures and strictly in accordance with due process of the laws,” Tobiko, Kenya’s director of public prosecutions, told Reuters.
Visiting British Minister for Africa, Henry Bellingham, had urged Wako to speed up the extradition of the two suspects from the east African country to Jersey via Britain.
The Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission (KACC) said in a statement it would assist in giving any evidence from ongoing investigations into Okemo and Gichuru for the offences linked to the Jersey charges in compliance with a request from the Attorney General of Jersey Timothy Le Cocq.
Kenya ranked 154th out of 178 in Transparency International’s 2010 corruption perceptions index, on a par with Central African Republic, Comoros, Congo-Brazzaville and Guinea-Bissau, as well as Russia.
The KACC says conservative estimates show corruption takes up to 35 percent of Kenya’s gross domestic product, or up to 55 percent if you include wastage, and a third of the country’s procurement budget. [ID:nLDE7260HN] (Additional reporting and writing by James Macharia; Editing by David Clarke and Jon Hemming)