Kenya’s Finance Minister has pleaded not guilty to corruption charges over the award of two dam tenders, a day after his detention in an unprecedented move against a sitting minister.
Henry Rotich, who spent the night in a police cell, is accused alongside other senior officials of conspiring to defraud the public, among other charges.
Rotich denied the charges before a packed court in Nairobi.
Not all the 28 accused were in court, but those present also pleaded not guilty.
The case stems from an investigation into the misuse of funds in two dam projects planned in western Kenya, overseen by Italian construction company CMC Di Ravenna.
Kenya also charged a director of the company, Paolo Porcelli, in absentia with conspiracy to defraud the country, and authorities will seek his extradition from Italy, director of public prosecutions Noordin Haji said.
The two dams were budgeted to cost 46 billion shillings ($446 million) but the treasury borrowed 63 billion instead, Haji said, needlessly ratcheting up Kenya’s ballooning public debt, which stands at around 55% of GDP.