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Industrialisation minister Henry Kosgey was on Wednesday questioned by the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission (KACC) over a car importation saga, joining other Cabinet ministers under investigation for graft.

The commission alleges that Mr Kosgey cleared the importation of hundreds of cars, which are more than eight years old — the threshold put by the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA).

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The taxman ordered the vehicles detained because of documentation queries.

KRA suspected that importers were taking advantage of loopholes in the law, such as those permitting Kenyans returning from abroad to come home with their vehicles.

The investigations over the car importation saga came as the purge against corruption continued to gain fresh impetus, a day after President Kibaki ordered a wide crackdown on graft in government.

Mr Kosgey is also battling claims of irregularities in the appointment of the new Kenya Bureau of Standards boss, Dr Joseph Koskei, a matter that is being debated in Parliament.

Over the last three weeks, dozens of senior government officials, including two Cabinet ministers, have been forced out of office or investigated over allegations of corruption.

KACC director PLO Lumumba said the agency is investigating four other ministers and several heads of state agencies.

Other ministers facing allegations of graft include Mrs Charity Ngilu of Water and her counterpart at Immigration, Mr Otieno Kajwang’, although they have not faced KACC.

Former Water Assistant minister Mwangi Kiunjuri has accused Mrs Ngilu of misuse of funds meant for boreholes.

Kenya remains one of the most corrupt countries in Africa, according to Transparency International rankings.

The country was ranked the third most corrupt in the East African Community.

Many Kenyans believe success of Kenya’s anti-corruption machinery is bound to be judged on the basis of the return on investment to the taxpayers in terms of recovery of stolen public assets, the number of high profile convictions and the deterrence force of the institution in fighting corruption.

“Corruption must be made painful. We are keen to insist on evidence on allegations of corruption and not witch-hunt,” said Prof Lumumba.

“We must be careful in the investigations. White collar crime is becoming very sophisticated. Investigations and prosecutions must touch all those involved, senior or junior ” he added.

Early this year, KACC charged 12 people, including vehicle importers, clearing and forwarding agents, Kenya Bureau of Standards and KRA employees in connection with a racket in which vehicles of more than eight years were finding their way into the local market.

The cars were shipped in through a legal window that was opened in a gazette notice fin 2005.

Mukhisa Kituyi, the then Industrialisation minister, allowed importation of cars aged beyond the set limit, “in the public interest”.

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By MWAURA KIMANI - Nationa Media Group