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Kenya's Kosgey Steps Down Amid Graft Probe; Third Minister Since November

Kenyan Industrialization Minister Henry Kosgey resigned to allow investigations into alleged corruption, the third Cabinet minister to step down since November amid an intensified battle against graft.

Kosgey offered his resignation following media reports “concerning the decision by the Attorney General to permit the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission to prefer charges against me of abuse of office,” he said in a statement handed to reporters today in Nairobi, the capital.

The commission plans to prosecute “high-level” individuals in an effort to curb corruption and boost foreign investment in East Africa’s biggest economy, Chairman Patrick Lumumba said in November. Kenya dropped 11 places from a year earlier to 159th out of 178 countries listed on the 2010 Corruption Perceptions Index compiled by Transparency International, the Berlin-based advocacy group. Somalia was ranked as the most-corrupt nation.

Moses Wetangula stepped down as foreign minister and Higher Education Minister William Ruto was suspended in October amid probes into alleged corruption, while Nairobi Mayor Geoffrey Majiwa was arrested by the commission the same month as part of its investigations. All three have denied involvement in graft.

The government asked Assistant Trade Minister Harun Mwau to step down last month while a probe into alleged drug trafficking is completed. Three calls to Mwau’s private office today seeking comment didn’t connect.

Exemptions

Kosgey is accused of abuse of office by granting exemptions allowing the importation of vehicles that are more than eight years old, the statement said. Kenyan law allows the minister to grant such exemptions, said Kosgey, who is chairman of the Orange Democratic Movement, Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s party.

Odinga “acknowledges” and “endorsed the offer by Henry Kosgey to step aside from his ministerial duties until the case against him is dealt with,” he said in an e-mailed statement.

“I am confident that I will be vindicated in the fullness of time,” Kosgey said. “I also wish to notify the Kenya Anti- Corruption Commission that I am ready and willing to fully co- operate with them and to present myself in court at short notice.”

The International Criminal Court last month requested charges of crimes against humanity be filed against Kosgey and five other Kenyans over their alleged role in post-election violence in 2008.

A reorganization of Kenya’s judiciary and police promised by a new constitution enacted in August bolstered public sentiment that the war against corruption can be won, according to the anti-graft agency. At least four ministers are being probed over alleged corruption, Lumumba said last month.

To contact the reporter on this story: Eric Ombok in Nairobi at eombok@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Antony Sguazzin in Johannesburg at asguazzin@bloomberg.net.

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