Gichuru firm found guilty of graft

Former Kenya Power and Lighting Company Managing Director Samuel Gichuru and former Nambale MP Chris Okemo at the Nairobi Law Courts. A company associated with Gichuru admitted it had laundered proceeds of corruption over a two-year period. [Photo: File/Standard]

A company associated with former Kenya Power boss Samuel Gichuru is guilty of laundering proceeds of corruption between 1999 and 2001.

In the historic case, Jersey authorities confiscated Sh500 million from Windward Trading Ltd – the firm received kickbacks on behalf of Gichuru – which will be shared with Kenya.

Jersey authorities lauded the conviction of Windward as a result of a groundbreaking international investigations conducted by its law officers’ department under former Solicitor General Howard Sharp, QC.

“The evidence in this money- laundering case is extensive and the investigation took many years to complete.

“Documents and witness evidence were secured by legal assistance from 12 jurisdictions to prove complex cross-border money laundering techniques," it said in a statement posted Online yesterday.

The ruling came only two weeks after the trial against Windward, Gichuru and former Energy minister Chris Okemo opened in the Royal Court of Jersey. Locally, the duo is in the Court of Appeal fighting to block extradition following a 2011 request by Jersey to Kenya that has attracted fierce court battles.

The duo suffered a major setback in December when they lost their bid to block extradition proceedings. But they filed an appeal last month challenging the ruling issued by Justice Isaac Lenaola. That appeal is yet to be determined.

Wednesday's guilty plea to four counts of money laundering by the firm could significantly weaken the Gichuru-Okemo case at home, meaning that the duo could be tried in the UK courts.

Windward Trading is registered in Jersey, whose authorities name Gichuru as the beneficial owner.

"During the period on the indictment, Mr Gichuru was also the Chief Executive of Kenya Power and Lightning Company (KPLC)... (The power firm) awarded valuable contracts to a number of engineering and energy companies worldwide who all made corrupt payments to Windward. The confiscation order provides an indication as to the scale of the criminal conduct that took place," said the statement.

In the ruling, the court ordered the confiscation of Sh465,452,241 (£3,281,897.40)  and Sh54,981,349 ($540,330.69), stripping the company of all its assets.

"A confiscation order was granted amounting to Sh500 million (£3.6 million) and discussions are under way between the Government of Kenya, Jersey authorities and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office of the United Kingdom as to the repatriation of these assets," said Gretta Fenner, the managing director of Basel Institute of Governance.

The International Centre for Asset Recovery of the Basel Institute on Governance has been assisting Kenyan authorities in investigations for several years.

"The recovery of stolen assets and their subsequent return to the country where they originated from sends the strongest possible message that impunity will not be tolerated and there is growing international momentum to present a collaborative front against corruption," said Ms Fenner.

The ruling comes at a time corruption in Government and State corporations is under the spotlight in Kenya and globally. Just last month, Smith & Ouzman, a UK security printer based in London, was fined Sh357 million for bribing Kenyan election and examination officials. Directors of the printing firm entangled in the scandal, dubbed Chickengate, were also handed hefty individual fines and jail terms.

Just like in the Windward case, Smith & Ouzman's assets would be seized and the proceeds from the attachment paid to Kenya.

"Corruption of foreign officials is damaging to the country in which the corruption occurs, is damaging to the reputation of UK business and of course in the market in which a business operates. It is anti-competitive," the London court ruled.

Windward accepted that it had laundered proceeds of corruption over a two-year period in Kenya, while the money was discreetly paid off as commissions and fees to the Jersey firm. Jersey Attorney General Robert MacRae said this case demonstrates Jersey's commitment to combating money-laundering.