Flashy Nairobi governor Mike Sonko on Monday pleaded not guilty to over 30 charges of money laundering, receiving bribes and conflict of interest in a court appearance held under tight security.
Sonko, the latest top official to be hauled in on corruption charges in Kenya, is accused of having benefited from irregular procurement and payments of $3.5 million.
He pleaded “not guilty” to all the charges when he was arraigned before anti-corruption court magistrate Douglas Ogoti, in a packed court secured by anti-riot police.
“You knowingly acquired property and money knowing it was the proceeds of crime,” a state prosecutor read out one of the charges, to which Sonko replied: “Not true.”
State prosecutors also read out details from Sonko’s bank accounts and several dates on which money was wired in from contractors who had won tenders at the county.
Rich, flamboyant person
Sonko spent the weekend in jail after his dramatic arrest in southern Voi saw him scuffle with police before being bundled in a helicopter and flown to Nairobi.
Born Gidion Mike Mbuvi, the governor formally adopted the nickname “Sonko” which is Swahili slang for a rich and flamboyant person.
He is loved by poor Kenyans for running his personally branded fire trucks and ambulances to assist people living in the slums.
He is also known for his style mimicking an American rapper, dripping with expensive gold and diamond jewellery, and on occasion, golden shoes. He recently drew criticism for displaying his opulent dining room on social media.
He also has a fleet of gold-coloured cars.
It’s not the first time Sonko has been in conflict with the law as a controversial politician who has spent time in jail – for failing to respect court dates – and has had to deny allegations of illegal activities, including drug trafficking.
In a Facebook post from his page on Sunday, Sonko said he believed the charges against him are “politically schemed and designed to embarrass and humiliate” him.