Former Sports Cabinet Secretary Rashid Echesa and three co-accused persons have pleaded not guilty to 12 counts of fraud in the Sh39 billion gun scandal case at the Milimani Law Courts.
Rashid Echesa and Daniel Otieno Omondi, Kennedy Oyoo Mboya, and Clifford Okoth denied 12 counts of fraud-related charges.
The Ex-CS has been accused of duping Eco Advanced Technologies that he would help them secure an arms tender at the Ministry of Defence, a deal in which he is accused of pocketing Sh11.5 million as consultancy fees.
The prosecution sought to file an additional affidavit which was opposed by Echesa’s lawyer Evans Ondieki who argued that the defence was not furnished and notified in due time. He told the court that any introduction of fresh orders would undermine the JKIA court, where Magistrate Lucas Onyona released his client on Sh1 million cash bail.
On its defence, the prosecution said that it was presenting a charge sheet, hence it would not contradict and disrespect the JKIA court.
While referring to comments made by Kitui Governor Charity Ngilu over the matter, Ondieki argued that the court should intervene and stop those already prosecuting the case on social media.
He posited that the case had taken a political tone and it is now public knowledge that it is being used as a witch-hunt against the Deputy President.
“There is a lot of political interference in the case which is meant to implicate the DP who is not in the case. This is political persecution and should go on record,” he said.
Ondieki further argued that the suspects had no capacity to interfere with the witnesses since the latter are security officers.
“Witnesses are defence and police officers, who can go to interfere with the defence officers your honour?” he asked.
The prosecution is seeking to open up a case against the four.
The former Sports Cabinet Secretary Rashid Echesa and his three co-accused were on Friday each granted a Sh1million cash bail in a case involving an alleged fraudulent arms deal.
They were remanded at Muthaiga Police Station to give police time to complete investigating the case.
Sleuths from the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) were to use the time to search their homes, after which Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) Magistrate Court's Lucas Onyona ordered that they be released.
Magistrate Onyona also barred the accused four from contacting any of the witnesses lined up for the case.
Prosecutors had requested the court that they be held for 21 days so that detectives could travel to the United States to check the authenticity of the documents found in the ex-CS’s car.
The documents were allegedly used in a fake tender deal to supply the government with military surveillance equipment, guns, and ammunition.
Echesa was arrested on Thursday following a complaint by two gun dealers who claimed he had swindled them Sh11.5 million they had paid as ‘consultancy fees’.
The foreigners from the US and Poland-based Eco Advanced Technologies LLC claimed the former CS had promised to use his influence to help them secure the multi-billion-shilling security tender.
It also emerged that one of the American merchants keen to win the tender to supply guns and ammunition had been hosted by the former CS at Harambee House Annex Building, where Deputy President has his office.
Police visited the building and recovered copies of the documents that Echesa had allegedly given to the investors.
“He has even been hosting them in a government boardroom claiming he would help secure the said tender,” said Director of Criminal Investigations George Kinoti.
Sources said the foreigners claimed to have been taken to a boardroom in the deputy president’s office more than once during negotiations.
Echesa argues his arrest is politically motivated and linked to the ongoing debate on the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI).
His lawyer Evans Ondieki, in his opposition against the prosecution’s request to detain him longer, argued against the timing of the arrest. He held that the office of the DCI was being used to wage political battles. Echesa was released on a Sh2 million cash bail.
On Sunday, DP Ruto appeared to accept that the meeting may have happened at his office but he had nothing to do with it. He called on the investigators to relook their scope of probe and focus on other departments especially in the Ministry of Defence.
He tweeted: “ODP does not procure for any ministry/department. Question: other than 23min in Annex, for months, which government offices involved in the 'tender' did the scammers visit? Did they access DOD? Who facilitated? Who did they meet? Get the truth. Forget the sponsored nonsense in media.”
Ruto’s admission came after it emerged police had raided his office and taken away CCTV footage that captured the events at the office last Thursday. The footage, according to those who had seen it, shows the two arms dealers – an American and an Egyptian – who were representing Eco Advanced Technologies that is seeking to supply the military hardware to Kenya, being ushered into the office.
The officers from the Serious Crimes Unit on Monday went to the DP’s office to collect evidence. The officers were in the company of two directors of the companies (Egyptian and American) who were involved in identifying staff privy to the deal.
Additional reporting by Hillary Orinde and Cyrus Ombati.
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