The anti-corruption commission has arrested five senior managers of the cereals board, national government officials and prominent farmers in North Rift over the Sh2 billion maize purchase scandal.
Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) detectives made the arrests in an operation that saw other suspects roughed up in Nairobi.
The suspects were arrested in the crack-down that started on Wednesday night and taken to the EACC North Rift regional headquarters in Eldoret.
The arrests bring to seven, the number of suspects taken into custody over the scandal that hit farmers hard.
The EACC investigators are pursuing seven other suspects over the irregular purchase of maize and payments resulting in loss of about Sh1.9 billion.
Among those arrested is a chief from Uasin Gishu County suspected to have authorised irregular vetting process of farmers who delivered their maize produce to NCPB stores.
“We already arrested five suspects and seven more are still at large but our officers are pursuing them,” said Stephen Ndeti, EACC officer in charge of the North Rift.
“Charge sheets are being prepared to facilitate the suspects to be arraigned in court.”
A list released by Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji on Thursday included Eldoret Silo Manager Renson Kibet Korir, Records Officer, Eldoret Depot, Eric Kipketer Talum and Mr Joseph Kipruto Cheboi, the County Director of Agriculture.
“More information will be availed to the press as soon as arrests are finalised and the suspects are made to face charges,” added Mr Ndeti.
Those arrested in Nairobi on Wednesday morning include ex-NCPB Managing Director Newton Terer, Agriculture PS Richard Lesiyampe and NCPB General Manager, Finance, Cornel Kiprotich.
The EACC detectives have in the last three months pitched camp in various NCPB depots in western Kenya, where the cheap grains, suspected to be from Uganda and Mexico, were delivered and prompt payment made to the cartels at the expense of genuine farmers.
Eldoret, Moi’s Bridge, Kitale, Nakuru, Bungoma and Kisumu are some of the NCPB depots that have been under investigations.
The forensic investigators are out to establish if genuine farmers were denied opportunity to supply maize to NCPB and if the suspects were bribed.
The arrest of the suspects comes after an Eldoret court ordered the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) to allow EACC to audit an account operated by NCPB.
The account is suspected to have been used to pay billions of shillings to cartels at the expense of genuine farmers.
Eldoret Chief Magistrate Charles Obulutsa issued the orders on Wednesday following application by EACC to examine how the Strategic Grain Reserve Trust Fund account, operated by NCPB, released Sh8 billion to pay traders believed to have imported maize from Uganda before delivering the produce to the board.
EACC forensic investigator Richard Kilimo sought the orders in the commission’s ongoing investigations.
In sworn affidavit, Mr Kilimo states some NCPB officers colluded with cartels to facilitate fraudulent approval of maize deliveries to their stores and processed payments in excess of Sh 8 billion.
The EACC suspects the money was paid through Strategic Grain Reserve Trust Fund account number 1000217189 held at Central Bank of Kenya.
While giving the order, Mr Obulutsa said it was necessary.
“This court is satisfied with the oath. I now authorise Richard Kilimo, an inspector with EACC, to investigate the necessary documents associated to the account in question in the period between 1st July 2017 to 31st May.2018,” ordered the magistrate
The documents the court ordered the bank to provide to the EACC investigators include bank statements, account opening forms, banker’s books, mandate cards and instruction notes.
By Daily Nation