High-profile corruption cases will now be heard in the High Court instead of the Magistrates' Court.
This follows new rules unveiled by Chief Justice David Maraga (pictured) and contained in Gazette Notice No. 7262 published on July 20.
Although the Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes Division in the High Court was created in December 2015, it has been handling only appeals and cases of constitutional rights infringements arising from investigations or trials in the lower court.
Under the new rules, prosecutors will be at liberty to charge suspects in the High Court, especially in high-profile cases involving millions of shillings, complex cases of an international nature and cases seeking to recover proceeds of corruption.
The new rules state that all new cases relating to corruption and economic crimes shall be filed in the Principal Registry of the Division in Nairobi for hearing and determination.
Last year, lawyer Peter Wanyama sued the CJ after he directed that only the High Court in Nairobi could determine the cases. But a consent was entered and now the new rules state that the Chief Justice may establish additional sub-registries outside Nairobi.
Mr Maraga’s rules state that cases relating to corruption and economic crimes filed under the Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes Act, Proceeds of Crime and Anti-Money Laundering Act, Anti-Counterfeit Act, Leadership and Integrity Act, Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Act, and Public Officers Ethics Act shall be heard in the High Court.
Others statutes include the Public Finance Management Act, Extradition (Contiguous and Foreign Countries) Act, Extradition (Commonwealth Countries) Act, Prevention of Organised Crimes and Mutual Legal Assistance Act.
Experts say the new regulations mean that Magistrates' courts will have limited cases to handle related to corruption.
“It now depends on the DPP looking at the crime and evidence provided to decide whether it is an economic crime that has to be filed at the High Court, or it is petty theft and refer it to the magistrates' court,” lawyer Apollo Mboya said.
Yesterday, Deputy Chief Justice Philomena Mwilu said the new rules were arrived at after lengthy public participation.
But Law Society of Kenya President Allen Gichuhi said the lawyers' body was not consulted.
“We have been caught by surprise. I don’t want to comment until I read and fully understand them,” he said.