Freedom guaranteed? Haji seeks to withdraw Sh7.5bn graft charges against Gachagua

 Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

On Friday, July 23, last year, Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua had unwelcome guests at his rural home in Mathira, Nyeri County.

Mr Gachagua, through his lawyer Kioko Kilukumi, told the court that the guests from the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) were on a mission. They manhandled, humiliated and arrested him over allegations of acquiring Sh7.5 billion through corruption.

“They stormed his house at 3am and arrested him, subjected him to intense humiliation and drove him at neck-breaking speed from Nyeri to DCI headquarters. That was extrajudicial punishment through raw misuse of power,” said Kilukumi.

That ordeal is, however, set to come to an end after the Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji filed an application to withdraw the charges against the DP alongside Nyeri Senator Wahome Mwangi and eight others.

The turn of events will be freedom at last for Gachagua who has maintained that his prosecution was politically motivated to punish him for supporting President William Ruto.

The DPP in his application laid bare the disconnect and bad working relations between his office and former DCI boss George Kinoti, who he blamed for putting pressure on the lead investigating officer to charge Gachagua without any evidence.

Through senior prosecutor Grace Murungi, the DPP decided to terminate the case after the DCI failed to present any evidence linking the accused persons to the six charges they were facing and confession by the lead investigator that he was unduly influenced to press the charges.

“The DPP raised several issues regarding the decision to charge Gachagua but was not getting any answers until the investigating officer admitted that he was under pressure from Mr Kinoti to complete investigations and make recommendation to charge the accused persons,” said Murungi.

The investigating officer Obadiah Kuria swore an affidavit detailing how he was allegedly coerced by the ex-DCI boss to bring the charges and was put on the dock to confirm that he was not forced by anybody to make the confession.

According to Kuria, he had raised reservations about charging Gachagua given that some crucial areas of investigations were not adequately covered but he was not given time to complete investigations and make recommendations on whether to charge.

“Those were the areas which could have shed light in determining the culpability of the accused persons but since I did not cover them, I believe it will be prejudicial for the DPP to proceed with the charges,” said Kuria.

The prosecution stated that based on the revelations and their frustrations with the former DCI boss, there is no basis of continuing with the case since it will end up in acquittal of the accused persons.

Kilukumi told the court that the DP welcomed the decision to terminate the charges and wondered why police officers raided Gachagua’s home instead of summoning him for questioning.

“Mr Gachagua made it clear when he was arrested that the charges were politically motivated and we still maintain that it was meant to punish him for associating with the United Democratic Party,” said Kilukumi.

He submitted that the move was meant to make Gachagua’s candidature unpalatable to the electorate since they were not brought to combat corruption but for ulterior political motive.

According to Kilukumi, Gachagua’s co-accused Mwangi (Nyeri senator), Anne Nduta, Julianne Jahenda, Samuel Murimi, Grace Wambui, Lawrence Kimaru, Irene Wambui and David Nguru were only used as collateral damage since the DP was the main target.

Lawyers representing the other accused also supported the application to withdraw the charges but equally blamed the DPP for approving the charges when he knew there was no evidence.

“The DPP must also carry the blame for the trumped up charges and not only blame the former DCI boss. The DPP’s office is independent and must make independent decisions to charge without any influence,” they said.

According to the lawyers, some of the accused persons have been wondering why they were charged since no evidence had mentioned them as parties to the alleged corruption.

The DPP said he was making the application to withdraw the charges under Section 87(A) of the Criminal Procedure Code.

Gachagua alongside nine co-accused were charged in July last year with six counts of conspiracy to commit economic crimes in which the prosecution alleged that he fraudulently acquired Sh7.3 billion through his personal accounts at Rafiki Micro-Finance Bank.

The other charges were conspiracy to commit an offence of corruption where it was alleged that the DP defrauded the County Government of Nyeri Sh27.4 million and Sh6 million from Nyeri Provincial General Hospital. He faced two other counts of money laundering.