National Land Commission Chairman Muhammad Swazuri (pictured) became the biggest casualty of the alleged illegal payment of millions of shillings for land acquired to build the Standard Gauge Railway.
Prof Swazuri was charged alongside Kenya Railways Corporation boss Atanas Maina and 10 others in what the prosecution termed a well calculated conspiracy and collusion between the officials to pay more than Sh221 million as compensation for public land that was irregularly acquired.
Their predicament was worsened by an order from the anti-corruption court's Senior Principal Magistrate Lawrence Mugambi restraining them from visiting their offices, which means they will be out of office until the criminal case is determined.
According to the prosecution, the activities that led to the illegal payments were systematic arrangements involving surveyors, lands officers and land registrars who issued title deeds to non-existent entities.
“Kenya Railways Corporation was aware that the land belonged to them. How then did NLC compulsorily acquire public land, gave the titles to individuals and then pay them Sh221 million? It amounts to crimes against humanity and against all Kenyans,” said State Prosecutor Lillian Obuo.
The mystery behind changing public land to private land, then making payments from public funds to buy it back is what convinced Mr Mugambi to issue tough bail terms for the accused.
Swazuri, NLC Director for Valuation and Taxation Salome Munubi, and David Some and Esther Chebet Some, the two individuals said to have received the Sh221 million, were granted the highest amount of cash bail of Sh3.5 million each.
“They are the ones who face numerous charges and bear the greatest responsibility with numerous offences involving a lot of money. They will be released on a cash bail of Sh3.5 million each or bond of Sh6 million and surety of same amount,” ruled Mr Mugambi.
The Kenya Railways boss and the other accused were released on a cash bail of Sh1.5 million each.
In the first count, Swazuri, Maina, Munubi, Tom Chavangi, Francis Mugo, Victor Kariuki, Elijah Nyamu, John Mwaniki, Carolyne Kituyi, Peter Mburu, Gladys Muyanga and Obadiah Wainaina were charged with conspiracy to commit an offence of corruption.
David and Esther Some, alongside their companies Dasahe Investment Ltd, Keibukwo Investment Ltd and Olomotit Estate Ltd were also charged with the offence.
Swazuri and Munubi faced 10 additional charges of abuse of office and breach of trust conferred to them by the public.
The magistrate ordered the State officers to stay away from their offices and only visit them in the company of a police officer. He scheduled the pre-trial for August 29.