DPP Haji appeals order to drop Swazuri land case

Former National Lands Commission Chairman Prof Muhammad Swazuri at a Milimani court during the hearing of a case where with other individuals are charged with corruption. [Collins Kweyu, Standard]

Director of Public Prosecution Noordin Haji has declined to withdraw a Sh109 million corruption case against Muhammad Swazuri, former National Land Commission chairman.

The DPP has instead filed an appeal at the High Court to challenge anti-corruption court chief magistrate Victor Wakumile's direction that he withdraws the case against Prof Swazuri and his 23 co-accused persons.

"We are asking the High Court to suspend the order by the magistrate asking the prosecution to withdraw the corruption case. We should be allowed to prosecute the case on merit and bring our witnesses before the court makes a determination," said the DPP.

Prof Swazuri is charged in the case alongside former NLC Commissioner Emma Njogu, former NLC CEO Tom Chavangi, former Director for Valuation Salome Munubi, former Director of Finance Francis Mugo, former NLC Secretary Lillian Keverenge and former Deputy Director of Valuation Joash Oindo.

Other accused are Francis Mugo, Catherine Wanjiku, Jane Wanjiku, Kevin Oindo, Samuel Muturi, Evahmary Gathondu, Michael Onyango, Godfrey Rubia, Sostenah Taracha, Shakil Ahem Khan, Nazir Ahmed, Francis Karanja, Martha Waithaka, John Mwangi, Philip Kileiya and Bertha Wangithi.

In February, the DPP sought to amend the charge sheet after dropping charges against nine accused persons and to adduce more evidence against the remaining 14.

However, the magistrate on April 26 declined the application to amend the charges and instead urged the DPP to withdraw charges against all the accused persons and have the file closed to prevent abuse of the court process.

But the DPP in his application filed at the High Court through state prosecutor Henry Kinyanjui argues that the magistrate has no power to direct him to withdraw charges against any accused person.

"The trial magistrate has demonstrated lack of neutrality, objectivity and impartiality. He is unable, unwilling and not ready to hear and determine the case on the basis of the merits of the issues, evidence and the law," said Kinyanjui.

According to the prosecution, the magistrate denied them a chance to conduct a plea bargain with some accused persons who were willing to surrender the alleged misappropriated funds and has instead put on them pressure to withdraw the case.

Justice Esther Maina certified the DPP's application as urgent and scheduled the hearing on May 29.