Nairobi’s governor, Mike Mbuvi Sonko pleaded not guilty to corruption and other economic crimes involving millions of dollars in a Kenyan court on Monday.
The governor was arrested on Friday and is accused of conspiracy to commit corruption, failure to comply with laws related to procurement, unlawful acquisition of public property and laundering the proceeds of crime.
Chief public prosecutor Noordin Haji has accused Sonko and his associates of the misappropriation of 357 million Kenyan shillings ($3.52 million).
Kenyans and investors have long complained of corruption in Kenya, East Africa’s business hub and the region’s richest economy. President Uhuru Kenyatta has promised to crack down on the problem.
Sonko appeared before anti-corruption chief magistrate Douglas Ogoti dressed in a designer shirt sequined with a gold teddy bear under a hooded camouflaged jacket.
Police set up barriers on streets around the court and diverted traffic in anticipation of possible trouble after Sonko’s supporters called for protests.
Sonko, a member of Kenyatta’s ruling Jubilee Party, said in a statement on Sunday that his arrest was politically motivated and that he was a law-abiding citizen.
He urged his supporters to avoid any actions that “may threaten the peace”.
“What I ask of you, my supporters, is to pray for me. Even all my haters, please pray for me,” the statement, written partly in English and partly in KiSwahili, read.
Sonko was represented in court by a high profile team of Kenyan lawyers including the Senate Majority leader Kipchumba Murkomen.
The former senator is a flamboyant figure, known for his glitzy lifestyle, flashy clothes, chunky gold jewellery and eye-catching hairstyles.
Police used teargas to disperse hundreds of Sonko’s supporters when he was called into the anti-corruption office for questioning in November.