The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission has opened investigations into the possibility that a key beneficiary of the stolen billions of shillings in the National Youth Service scandal could have hired an imposter to face charges on his behalf.
The anti-corruption agency is counter-checking the identity of Mr John Kago, 58, who appeared before the Public Accounts Committee last month and described himself as a driver at the Kenya Commercial Bank, and a younger high-flying businessman who shares the same name to establish the validity of the identity swap claims. The younger man was a government employee but left his position.
“We are investigating the matter. So far, we have established that there are two Kagos sharing the same name. One is from Nyeri and the other one from Murang’a. In the next two weeks, we shall have made good progress in the investigations,” said EACC deputy chief executive officer Michael Mubea.
Sources close to the latest investigations revealed that EACC was prompted into action following claims that the older Mr Kago could have been hired by a key suspect to pose as the businessman implicated in the Sh791 million heist.
According to the sources who spoke off the record because they are under oath not to disclose details of ongoing investigations, EACC received credible information that the “suspect” who appeared before PAC on October 26 claiming to have received a Sh60 million “soft loan” from a key suspect in the case, Ms Josephine Kabura, could have been a decoy paid to shield key players in the scandal.
EACC, we learnt, had obtained the files of the 58-year-old Mr Kago from KCB to corroborate the information he gave to the PAC. They have also made inquiries at the government agency that the younger man worked for.
“We want to go through the files and establish who between the two is the real player in this matter,” said one of the sources.
The suspicions stem from Kago’s testimony before the committee that he received more than Sh346 million — almost half of the Sh791 million looted from NYS — and continued to work as a driver at KCB.
Mr Kago baffled the MPs by insisting that he continued to work at the bank, earning Sh15,000 a month, even after acquiring the immense wealth.
“I am a driver at KCB, but I am on suspension and half salary due to the NYS scandal in which my name has been mentioned,” Mr Kago told the committee.
Even with his modest looks, Mr Kago told the committee that he was a man of means, owning a fleet of luxury motor vehicles, including a top-end Range Rover that set him back Sh23 million, a Mercedes Benz, Toyota Land Cruiser and a Toyota Fielder, all of which he uses in his car-hire business.
His narrative that he started as a taxi driver and saved enough money in a merry-go-round to start importing second-hand vehicles from Japan also did not add up, given his massive wealth.
On Saturday, PAC chairman and Rarieda MP Nicholas Gumbo expressed fears that if found to be true, the development could plunge investigation into the loss of at least Sh1.6 billion into disarray.
“That would amount to serious travesty of justice. But wait a second, the guy who appeared before us didn’t look like one who has seen Sh300 million,” he said.
According to a special audit by the auditor-general, Mr Kago received Sh346 million from Ms Kabura and another key suspect in the scandal, Ben Gethi.
However, Mr Kago told the committee, chaired by Mr Gumbo, that he received only Sh60 million from Ms Kabura and denied ever meeting Mr Gethi either “personally or businesswise”. Mr Gumbo warned him that he would be declared a hostile witness if he lied to the committee as the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission had corroborated information contained in the audit that he received Sh156 million from Ms Kabura and Sh130 million from Mr Gethi.
MONEY DEPOSITED INTO ACCOUNT
However, Mr Kago stood his ground and accused a detective who gave the information showing the money was deposited into his accounts at Family Bank and Kenya Commercial Bank of fabrication.
“It was a conspiracy to fix me,” he said.
Maara MP Kareke Mbiuki wanted to know how Ms Kabura came to “loan” Mr Kago Sh60 million with just a written agreement, indicating he was to repay it at 10 per cent interest per month and signed by a lawyer but without the borrower’s signature.
Mr Kago said he had known Ms Kabura, whose three firms received Sh791 million to build a 3.5km road in Kibera, Nairobi, for one and a half years. He described her as a friend.
Mr Kago, who said he left his job as an accounts clerk “in search of greener pastures” as a driver, is alleged to have used the Sh130 million from Mr Gethi to buy property for the businessman’s mother, Charity Wangui.
Mr Gumbo directed Mr Kago to provide the committee with his bank statements from 2013 to establish whether he had indeed received the Sh346 million from the two suspects, details of all his properties and registration numbers for his fleet of vehicles. The committee had also directed him to surrender the Range Rover to the Assets Recovery Agency, saying it was bought with proceeds of crime.
Mr Kago said he had not yet surrendered the vehicle and told the PAC that it had been hired out to someone in Nairobi at Sh40,000 per day but was not in use after “reports went out that anyone seen driving the vehicle would be shot dead by police”. It is also not clear whether he has complied with the directives.
In her affidavit, Ms Kabura describes Mr Kago as an innocent “business person” and “fellow customer” at Family Bank. She does not however make any reference to Mr Kago’s nature of business or previous employment, if any.
“It is my view that certain individuals are being shielded from blame while others are being victimised. For instance, one Mr John Kago Ndungu who has never been awarded any contract/tender in the NYS projects under investigations has been labeled the sole conduit for funds in the purported NYS saga,” she notes.
“That I am personally known to Mr John Kago Ndungu as a fellow customer at Family Bank. I had personally loaned him Sh60m in the course of our business relationship, money which he later paid back with interest,” she goes on.
Ms Kabura maintains Mr Kago has never had any dealings with the NYS as widely suspected: “That I never informed nor involved him in any of my contracts at the NYS either those under investigations by the several investigative agencies nor any other. That apart from the Sh60m personal loan to Mr John Kago Ndungu I have never given other monies to Mr Kago either physically, deposited or transferred into any of his known or unknown accounts nor used 3rd parties to do the same,” Ms Kabura further states.
“That in my view, the inclusion of business people Mr John Kago Ndungu, Peter Omari Otuoma (a business associate), Caroline Njambi (Mr Omari’s business partner), Mr Ben Gethi (oil supplier at NYS) in these investigations and the ensuing criminal charges is a ploy to divert public attention from the real culprits and malign their names as merchants supplying to the Government and doing genuine business for several Government agencies,” she states.