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How Ocampo schemed an ‘honourable exit’ for Uhuru Kenyatta

By Nzau Musau | Published Sat, October 7th 2017 at 00:00, Updated October 6th 2017 at 22:51 GMT +3
Louis Moreno Ocampo

In summary

  • Damning publication of 40,000 documents lifts lid on former ICC prosecutor, revealing an intricate web of backhand dealings, offshore accounts in tax havens and conspiracies to help Libyan war criminals
  • On realising that they couldn’t secure a conviction, the former ICC prosecutor worked on how to collapse the Kenyan case without being faulted for the failure

Leaked e-mails of former International Criminal Court Chief Prosecutor Louis Moreno Ocampo reveal how the Argentinian proposed to allow Uhuru Kenyatta to have “an honourable exit” in his case at The Hague.

These disclosures are part of Ocampo’s hacked e-mails to former UN secretary general Kofi Annan, who mediated the Kenyan conflict in 2008.

In the leaks, Ocampo, the man who pompously went for prominent Kenyan politicians and bureaucrats accused of fanning the 2007/08 post-election violence, gave the first indication that the case against the Head of State was falling apart.

“I think it is time to find an honourable exit for Kenyatta,” Ocampo’s e-mail to Annan published by a Dutch publication on Thursday says.

Since Friday last week, torrents of leaked e-mail communications between Ocampo, associates and current top ICC officials, including his successor Fatou Bensouda, have been raining on the court through a consortium of Europe-based publications.

These e-mail communications have opened the lid to a shocking web of conspiracy, double-dealing and treachery in court operations.

In the story, Ocampo is depicted as having given up in the Kenyatta case in 2013 and accordingly started to scheme how the cases could collapse without him being faulted. It is in October of that year that he wrote to Annan proposing Kenyatta’s dignified exit.

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The case against Kenyatta would later fall apart two years later in March 2015 after the prosecutor withdrew the charges against him. Kenyatta had denied charges of murder, forcible evictions and other crimes against humanity.

In the e-mail communications that emerged last week, Ocampo had initially wanted the ICC prosecutor who replaced him Fatou Bensouda to use external lawyers to prove the case against Kenyatta.

Redeeming himself

During his discussions on the Kenyatta case, it emerged that at one point in 2013, Ocampo wanted Annan to involve an African delegation in seeking a solution to this case.

Ocampo is reported to have advised the Kenyan Ambassador to the UN in New York that the ICC against the Kenyan leader should not be politicised.

Instead, he proposed that the new President redeems himself by compensating victims of post-election violence for their loss. In retrospect, Ocampo’s advice seems to have been rebuffed as Kenyatta went on an overdrive in his political assault on the court.

In 2015, the case against Kenyatta collapsed, because of evidentiary weaknesses and sustained political pressure. Bensouda blamed the Kenyan government for the collapse but the judges attributed a good share of blame on her office.

The revelation on Ocampo’s dealings in the Kenyan cases long after he left the case are just but the tip of the iceberg  from the treasure trove of e-mails  published by a  consortium of European journalists.

It all began on Friday last week when a website run by journalists — Black Sea — gave a notice of the impeding publication of 40,000 documents- “diplomatic cables and correspondence, cross-checked with public sources” obtained by French media site Mediapart and shared with European Investigative Collaborations (EIC).

“Documents also reveal that after leaving his eminent position, the Argentinian lawyer acted against the ICC’s purpose by defending those seen as potential targets of the Court in Libya, disregarding conflicts of interest and the confidentiality of investigations,” the notice read.

It also said the documents show that Ocampo held offshore bank accounts and companies in tax havens, “opening the door to suspicions about his morality and the court’s integrity.”

The Black Sea focused on Ocampo’s dealings in Libya as a multi-million dollar worth advisor of oil magnate and TV media owner Hassan Tatanaki and his “Justice First” initiative.

Black Sea claims Ocampo used his knowledge to insulate Tatanaki’s allies in the Libyan civil war from falling into the grip of Bensouda, who had trained her eyes on them over grave human rights violations and threats.

In the next few days, Ocampo and Hassan Tatanaki’s assistant worked out measures that should secure the legal positions of the military leaders, and especially Tatanaki.

Later, Ocampo writes to Tatanaki’s assistant again: “I would suggest to develop a comprehensive plan to ensure that Hassan and the forces he is supporting are not the target of ICC prosecutions.”

Later when he was interviewed by one of the partner publications in the expose, Der Spiegel, Ocampo admitted to working with Tatanaki saying he thought it was a good idea.

Fixing Libya

“He told me he was trying to fix Libya. What he was proposing to me was absolutely not just legal, it was positive,” he told the publication.

He also told the paper he had warned his client several times: “I told Mr Tatanaki ‘Look, Mr. Tatanaki, the problem here is every side commits crimes. My biggest advice to you is: be careful not to be involved in financing any crimes.”

On stashing monies in tax havens, the expose said a few months after he exited the court in August 2012, $50,000 was transferred to his account at the Dutch bank Abn Amro from an account in Switzerland.

“The sender is Tain Bay Corporation, which continues to make cash flows to Ocampo through this route. Tain Bay Corporation is registered in Panama, an offshore haven, where the beneficial owners of firms are secret, and authorities are loathe to exchange info on financial disbursements from other countries,” Black Sea published.

The report says that new documents reveal that behind Tain Bay was Ocampo himself, and his wife. He’s further said to have another offshore firm — Yemana Trading — in the tax haven of the British Virgin Islands (BVI), and that his wife is behind Lucia Enterprises in Belize, another tax haven.

In the interview with Der Spiegel, Ocampo says “Offshore companies are not illegal. You can make illegal activity with them. But they are not illegal.”

This was not all. On October 1, European Investigative Collaborations (EIC) gave official notice of its intention to publish the Ocampo-related story under the title “Secrets of the world court.” And true to their word, on the following day, the first article headlined: “ICC secrets; the Yezidi Lobby Scandal” was published.

It’s the story of how the former prosecutor allegedly used his influence within the court to lobby help for the Yezidi’s, a religious minority targeted by Islamic State (IS) in Iraq, and which wanted  the court  to identify with their cause.

Conflict of interest

“The documents in EIC’s possession show that Ocampo did contact chief prosecutor Bensouda to promote the Yezidis’ cause. They also show that one of Bensouda’s employees at the Court is asked to handle money to use in the lobbying process, revealing a clear conflict of interests,” the story said.

The report shows that Ocampo worked on Yezidi’s lobby documents which were presented to Bensouda in a meeting in 2015. Ocampo called Bensouda to fix the meeting and that Olivia Swaak-Goldman, a former ICC employee associated with him, took $3,000 from a philanthropist Kerry Propper to facilitate the cause.

Further and more damning, the report claimed that Florence Olara, the current OTP Spokesperson, got $5,000 to organise a press conference of the Yezidi delegation outside the steps of the court on their way from meeting with Bensouda.

Although Olara denied the claims when they were put to her by EIC, the report says Propper, who gave out the money, sold her out.

“When we asked the philanthropist why he let Florence Olara organise the press conference and media outreach, while she was also working for the Office of the Prosecutor, he replied: ‘I was told she has good press contacts.’

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