Kenyans face attempted murder charges over mercury-laced fertiliser

Charles Ongwae and other officials have been charged with attempted murder. (Reuters pic)

NAIROBI: The head of Kenya’s state-run standards body, seven other officials, and two businessmen were charged with attempted murder on Monday for allowing imports of substandard fertiliser containing mercury.

Charles Ongwae, managing director of the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS), and other officials were arrested on Friday after the authorities found that fertiliser imported from Morocco was approved for sale even though it failed KEBS’s standards.

Eight of the 10 defendants appeared before Kenneth Cheruiyot, senior principal magistrate in Nairobi, and pleaded not guilty. They were later released on bail. Two others were not present in court.

The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions said on Twitter they were charged with attempted murder over imports of 5,846,000 bags of substandard fertiliser. A charge sheet presented in court by the prosecutor office said the fertilizer contained mercury.

KEBS is responsible for checking the standard of goods entering the country.

The prosecutor’s office said they were also charged with procuring fake standardization sticker marks worth 882 million shillings (RM35.2 million), aiding in the commission of felony, breach of trust, and abuse of office.

Kenya has been hit by scandals involving bogus tenders and suppliers that the authorities say has led to the theft of hundreds of millions of shillings from government bodies by state officials.

President Uhuru Kenyatta vowed to stamp out corruption when he was first elected in 2013, but critics say he has been slow to go after top officials and ministers.

Kenyatta, who was elected for a second term last year, has spoken out recently against graft and urged the judiciary “to ensure fair trials and justice”.