Sonko acquitted in Sh20m graft case

Former Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko. [Collins Kweyu, Standard]

Former Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko breathed a sigh of relief after he was acquitted of corruption.

The acquittal by anti-corruption chief magistrate Douglas Ogoti was an early Christmas gift to the former county chief.

Sonko has been battling several graft cases for the past three years over alleged embezzlement of Sh357 million from City Hall.

"The evidence submitted by the prosecution is not sufficient to prove the charges. The court finds that the charges as drafted were highly defective and could not be proved by the prosecution. I, therefore, find that the accused persons have no case to answer and acquit them," ruled Ogoti.

Sonko had been charged alongside businessman Anthony Otieno Ombok over allegations of receiving Sh20 million kickbacks from companies that traded with Nairobi City County during his tenure as governor.

However, the decision does not mean the ex-governor is off the hook. He has two other pending corruption cases. The cases have been proceeding in camera to conceal the identities of the witnesses.

The magistrate while releasing Sonko and Ombok ruled that the prosecution failed to establish a prima facie case since none of the 19 witnesses proved that the ex-governor was paid kickbacks in exchange for contracts to some companies.

"There are facts that the prosecution needed to bring out to prove their case but they failed to do so. They were supposed to prove each and every count of the charges which the court finds were incurably defective and could not be sustained," ruled Ogoti.

He acquitted Sonko and Ombok in all eight counts of money laundering, conspiracy to commit an offence of corruption, engaging in conflict of interest and acquisition of proceeds of crime.

Sonko in his statement after the acquittal accused some politicians of instigating the corruption case to remove him from office.

"The ruling has vindicated us that all the charges were fabricated and the fanfare and drama that led to my arrest and prosecution were politically sponsored. We have cleared the first hurdle as we await the outcome of the other two pending cases," he said.

However, Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji said they are dissatisfied with the magistrate's decision since they had a strong case and will appeal immediately.

According to the DPP, they disagreed with the finding that the charge sheet was defective given that the magistrate had gone through it during the pre-trial and approved the charges before the case went for a full trial.

"The decision is unfortunate but we respect constitutional offices. We are going to challenge that decision based on the fact that the magistrate did not consider the merits of our case and only ruled that the charge sheet was defective," said Haji.

The prosecution called 19 witnesses and submitted 113 documentary exhibits to support its case, which the magistrate ruled were not enough to support the charges.