NAIROBI, Kenya — The Kenyan authorities have arrested the chairman of the agency that manages public land and the boss of the state railway on suspicion of corruption over land allocation for the new $3 billion flagship Nairobi-Mombasa railway.
The line connecting Nairobi, the capital, with East Africa’s main port was financed by China and is one of the biggest infrastructure projects of President Uhuru Kenyatta, whose government began an anticorruption drive this year.
The public prosecutor, Noordin Mohamed Haji, ordered the arrests and said in a statement that he was preparing to charge the officials.
Kenya inaugurated the $3 billion railway last year. No Chinese companies or individuals were named in the prosecutor’s statement.
The chairman of National Land Commission, Mohammed Abdalla Swazuri, was one of 18 officials, businesspeople and companies named in a list of arrests posted on Saturday on the Twitter feed of the prosecutor’s office. The managing director of the Kenya Railways Corporation, Atanas Kariuki Maina, was also arrested.
Opposition leaders and Kenyan economists have criticized the railway for increasing the country’s debt burden, which the International Monetary Fund estimated at 54 percent to 55 percent of economic output in the 2017-18 fiscal year.
The investigation that led to the arrests centers on allegations that officials had siphoned off taxpayer money through phony compensation claims for land used for the railway, the anticorruption agency said in a statement. It did not say who made the accusations.
Analysts say that Kenya, East Africa’s richest economy per capita, loses a significant percentage of its annual gross domestic product to corruption and that it is hard to do business without paying bribes.
Representatives for Mr. Swazuri and Mr. Maina could not be immediately reached for comment.
Kenya has been hit this year by a number of scandals related to the alleged theft of millions of dollars by officials from government bodies. Mr. Haji, appointed by Mr. Kenyatta this year, is bringing charges against dozens of state officials and businesspeople.