By Wahome Thuku
The reality of a reformed Judiciary that treats high-profile criminals same way it would common offenders was felt across the country as three former high-ranking State officials were sent to jail.
Hardly a week after a former Permanent Secretary was sent to jail for three years over Anglo Leasing crimes, another former PS wept in court as she was dispatched to prison, along with two men who served as Kenya Tourist Board (KTB) chief executive and board chairman respectively.
Ms Rebecca Nabutola, former Tourism PS shed tears as the reality of four-years in prison, without the option of a fine, and with the additional penalty of refunding Sh1million, sunk in.
Handcuffed to each other, former KTB Managing Director Dr Ochieng Ong’ong’a and former KTB board member Duncan Muriuki arrived in court for sentencing and left, not for their homes or former boardrooms, but a new experience behind prison walls.
While headed to jail, the former CEO must have been trying to figure out how he would raise the Sh1.5 million he was ordered to pay in addition to the sentence. But in what could be a warning to board members of State corporations who engage in business with the institutions on whose boards they sit, not only was Muriuki given the sternest sentence, but the heaviest cash penalty — he must pay Sh17.8 million which is not optional.
Ong’ong’a who is the son of late freedom fighter Achieng’ Oneko, got three years, while Muriuki was sentenced to seven years, meaning if he does not succeed in appealing, he will probably be freed in 2019 — about two years after the President that Kenyans elect next year will have finished his or her term.
But what must have served as a warning shot for the influential and formerly powerful personalities embroiled in such multi-billion scandals as Goldenberg, Grand Regency, Triton, Anglo Leasing and maize sale saga, was the amount involved in this case — just Sh9.3 million!
There is also the fact that the courts imposed fines, but for each of the accused there were counts for which they were found guilty and sentenced to jail terms without option of paying for freedom.
The non-optional terms the three have to serve are four years for Nabutola and three for Ong’ong’a, but for Muriuki the chief magistrate did not specify if he would serve the two one-year jail terms and the two three-year sentences concurrently, or one after the other.
Interestingly, the money they were accused of conspiring to steal from the Ministry of Wildlife and KTB was ostensibly used at a Presidential function in Masai Mara game reserve.
The shocking sentence handed down by a Chief Magistrate in Nairobi also sent one of the clearest messages on how the Judiciary, headed by Chief Justice Willy Mutunga, plans to make corruption the most “expensive” and riskiest moneymaking venture.