Story from BBC NEWS:
Kenyan MPs have passed a law which may make it impossible to prosecute corrupt politicians implicated in big scandals.
The law limits Kenya's Anti-Corruption Commission to investigate alleged crimes committed only after 2003.
Two notorious cases predate this - the Goldenberg and Anglo Leasing scams when huge sums were diverted from the Kenyan exchequer into officials' back pockets.
President Mwai Kibaki won polls in 2002 on an anti-graft platform he has yet to fulfil. He faces re-election this year.
Obseervers say the move may be timed to ensure no politicians face damaging legal proceedings ahead of the polls.
After a heated debate, opposition MPs surprised the government by winning a vote on the controversial amendment which deletes key sections of the 2003 Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes Act.
Justice Minister Martha Karua argued against the change, saying the sections were the core of the Act and their deletion would strip the KACC of powers essential to carrying out its remit.
Speaking in parliament she said: "Past economic crimes have not been successfully investigated and this amendment would give the KACC a deadly blow."
The head of the Kenya National Human Rights Commission, Maina Kiai, has described the law as an affront to the people of Kenya.
"The politicians are spitting in our faces," he said.
Mrs Karua told parliament that the architect of the amendment, Paul Muite had an interest in sabotaging the KACC investigation.
"Hon Muite's interest is obvious and this amendment is mischievous", she said.
Back in 2003 when the KACC was set up, Mr Muite told Kenya's Daily Nation he was looking forward to "defending himself against allegations that he received 20 million Kenyan shillings" from a businessman implicated in the Goldenberg scandal.
The big scams
Under former President Daniel arap Moi's administration, the government devised a scheme to persuade exporters to repatriate hard currency earnings, promising a 20% premium on foreign currency deposited in Kenya's Central Bank.
It is alleged that a company called Goldenberg International colluded with government officials to make a claim for a 35% compensation for the export of minerals, in spite of Kenya having no diamond reserves and producing little gold of its own.
At least $80m was paid in export compensation, but some estimates suggest that Kenya's overall losses amounted to around $600m - the equivalent of more than 10% of the country's annual GDP.
Then under President Kibaki, officials sought to order a replacement for Kenya's passport printing system.
It involved buying sophisticated equipment - originally quoted at 6m euros ($8.3m) from Francois Charles Oberthur of Paris, a leading credit card supplier.
Without a proper competitive tender, the contract was instead awarded for five times the price to a company registered in the UK, the Anglo-Leasing and Finance Company Limited, whose plan was to sub-contract Oberthur to do the work.
It was subsequently revealed that Anglo Leasing's agent was a Liverpool-based firm, Saagar Associates.
The company records showed Saagar Associates was owned by Mrs Sudhan Ruparell, a daughter of Chamanlal Kamani, the 72-year-old multi-millionaire patriarch of a business family which enjoyed close links with senior officials in the Moi regime.
No graft convictions
The former head of the KACC, John Githongo, fled to the UK in 2005 after saying he had been threatened because of his investigations into corruption.
His successor, Aron Ringera. recommended that two former finance ministers, an ex-transport minister and a former security minister should be prosecuted, along with eight top civil servants.
Three senior ministers stood down following their implication in corruption in February 2006, but in January 2007 the Attorney General deemed there was not enough evidence against them to proceed with a prosecution.
So far, for all the investigations and charges, not a single businessman, official or politician has been brought to trial.
The international corruption watchdog, Transparency International, ranks Kenya among the 20 most corrupt countries in the world.
Kenya's MPs have already provoked a public outcry in recent days when they voted just last week to award themselves a $22,000 bonus each at the end of their five-year term in December.
The bill also legalised huge perks received by ministers.
Kenya's 222 MPs already earn more than $10,000 a month in salaries and expenses, much of which is tax-free, in a country where most people live on less than $1 a day.
Published: 2007/09/13 12:40:31 GMT