held forth as a symbol of Sino-African ties by Beijing, with three Chinese officials now being arrested for attempting to bribe investigators.massive scam has been uncovered underlying a Chinese-built and operated Kenyan rail line that has often been
The Mombasa-Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway was opened in May 2017, built by the China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) at a cost of $3.6 billion, Kenya’s largest infrastructure project post-independence. Since then, it has often become consumed in controversy, though nothing quite as big as the scandal that is currently brewing.
While Kenyan authorities have yet to release details of the alleged fraud, multiple insider sources have told the Daily Nation that the colossal scam involved manipulation of the ticket booking system operated by CRBC so that refunds would be trigged and that money would then be diverted elsewhere — into someone’s pocket.
Reportedly, losses from this scheme could be as much as $10,000 a day — equating to about one-third of the daily earnings from the rail line’s passenger service last year.
On Friday, three senior Chinese officials working for CRBC were arrested for allegedly attempting to bribe investigators who were looking into the scam, offering the detectives nearly $5,000 to look the other way. The three have been identified as Li Gen, head of transport, Li Xiaowu, security manager, and Sun Xin, staff member.
The trio are currently in custody, awaiting a bail hearing which is scheduled for Friday. They have denied the charges against them.
2/3 The three, Mr. Li Gen the in-charge of Transport, Mr. Li Xiaowu-security manager and Mr. Sun Xin-staff, were offering @DCI_Kenya investigators bribe of Kshs 500,000/= as an inducement to influence an ongoing criminal investigation at the SGR Miritini terminus. cc @EACCKenya pic.twitter.com/xZ3DLr0phf
— ODPP_KE (@ODPP_KE) November 25, 2018
This is just the latest crisis in Kenya for the CRBC which was hit earlier this year with accusations of “neo-colonialism,” “racism,” and “blatant discrimination” with Kenyan workers alleging that there were “unwritten rules” at the company which said that they could not share a lunch table with Chinese staff or ride in the same van as them.
Additionally, despite promises that the rail line would be handed over for Kenyans to operate, Kenyan engineers complained that they were not being taught any skills, left to just sit in the cabin as a Chinese conductor drove the train.
Along with initial huge expense and the debt incurred to China, the rail line has also faced criticism for being unviable, losing about $100 million during its first year, and for harming the habitat of Kenya’s wildlife with the tracks running right through a pair of national parks.
Despite reports that Kenya could lose assets to China over its debt, there are plans to extend the railway to other countries in Africa, linking Kenya to Uganda, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, and Burundi, as well as to the Chinese-built railway that connects Addis Ababa with Djibouti on the coast of the Gulf of Aden.