Freedom for Ruto's allies facing criminal and graft cases

President William Ruto when he unveiled the list of Cabinet secretaries nominees on September 27, 2022. [Edward Kiplimo,Standard]

Freedom has come to several high-end corruption and criminal suspects after the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) applied to terminate their cases.

The majority of the accused persons being set free were allied to President William Ruto’s Kenya Kwanza camp during the last election and are literally reaping from the coalition’s campaign slogan of ‘Freedom is coming.’ Top on the list of beneficiaries are two Cabinet Secretaries nominees Mithika Linturi and Aisha Jumwa whose attempted rape and corruption cases respectively have been dropped.

Joining them in the list are former Samburu Governor Moses Lenolkulal alongside his ten co-accused persons, former Kenya Power Managing Director Ben Chumo and the company’s former top managers and six co-accused in former Kiambu Governor Ferdinand Waititu case.

Lenolkulal was the latest beneficiary of the rush for freedom after DPP Noordin Haji applied to terminate his Sh84.6 million corruption case. The DPP through State prosecutor Wesley Nyamache told the court that after reviewing a request by the ex-governor through his lawyer Nelson Havi, the DPP had decided to terminate the case after being stratified that there was no money lost by the county government.

“The DPP confirmed that there were no procurement breaches in the stated contract and that no money was lost since the county government got value for money for the services provided,” said Nyamache.

The prosecutor submitted that the DPP was convinced that the former governor did not engage in a conflict of interest having relinquished his interest in Oryx Service Station which was awarded the Sh84 million contracts to supply fuel to Samburu County Government.

Trial magistrate Thomas Nzioki, however, directed the DPP to formally file an application for withdrawal and to personally file a consent letter giving reasons for withdrawing the case.

“The DPP must file a formal application which should be served on all the accused persons and the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission. The application must be accompanied by a formal consent letter by the DPP expressing the reasons for withdrawal,” ruled Nzioki.

Lenolkulal was charged in April 2019 alongside his county government officials Stephen Letinina, Daniel Lenolkirina, Josephine Lenasalia, Reuben Lemunyete, Linus Lenolngenye, Paul Lolmingani and Bernard Lesurmati, Lillian Balanga, Andrew Lanyasunya, David Loosenge and Geoffery Kitewan.

They were charged with conspiracy to commit an economic crime by receiving Sh84,695,996 from the county government through Oryx Services Station.

The ex-governor faced other charges of abuse of office by using his office to improperly confer a benefit to himself and engaging in a conflict of interest by trading with the county he is heading.

Linturi’s case

Linturi, the Agriculture CS nominee got off the hook last week when Nairobi magistrate Susan Shitubi terminated his trial over allegations of attempted rape.

The former Meru Senator was charged in September 2021 with two counts of intentionally attempting to rape the 36-year-old woman at Maiyan Villa Hotel in Nanyuki on January 30, 2021 and committing an indecent act with an adult.

The woman had alleged that the CS nominee entered her room at the hotel without her knowledge and attempted to rape her.

The case was scheduled to proceed to full trial for which Linturi faced a minimum of five years in jail if found guilty but when it came up before the magistrate last week, the complainant informed the court that they had discussed the issue with the CS nominee and agreed to withdraw the case.

The DPP through State prosecutor Nyakira Kibera confirmed that they had received an affidavit from the complainant confirming that she had agreed to withdraw the case and that they were not opposed to the case being terminated.

“The court allows the application to withdraw the complaint and discharge the accused person under Section 40 of the Sexual Offences Act and Section 204 of the Criminal Procedure Code. The court directs that his cash bail of Sh200,000 be refunded,” ruled Shitubi. Both the magistrate and the DPP confirmed that the woman willingly resolved to end the case and that she will never bring the same complaints against Linturi.

Jumwa’s corruption case

For Ms Jumwa who is the Public Service and Gender CS nominee, the DPP made the application to withdraw corruption charges she has been facing for allegedly embezzling Sh19 million from the Malinding National Government Constituency Development Fund.

The former Malindi MP was charged alongside Kennedy Ojwang, Robert Katana, Omar Abdalla, Margret Kalume, Benard Riba and Sophia Charo with conspiracy to defraud the money from the NG-CDF kitty.

But when the case came up before Mombasa Chief Magistrate Martha Mutuku, the DPP through State prosecutor Alex Akula, applied to terminate the case against the CS nominee and have her name removed from the charge sheet.

Jumwa and her co-accused were charged in August last year with conspiracy to commit fraud through payment of Sh19 million to Multiserve contractors between May and October 2018.

She faced other charges of conflict of interest, acquisition of proceeds of crime and money laundering while the co-accused faced additional charges of failing to comply with procurement laws.

The magistrate directed the DPP to present a new charge sheet on October 17 that would allow Jumwa’s six co-accused take fresh pleas after her name is withdrawn from the charge sheet.

Kenya Power

For five years, former Kenya Power and Lighting CEOs Ben Chumo and Ken Tarus piously attended court sessions in hope that they would be acquitted in charges relating to the transformers tender. The two directors, however, yesterday had the charges against them dropped, marking the end of what Dr. Chumo says was a career wrecking and difficult period for all that were accused.

The DPP dropped the charges under Section 87 A in a case that had only four witnesses remaining. The reasons for dropping the charges were that the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) had failed to reply to gaps that had been identified by the prosecution.

 At the same time, Anti-corruption court Chief Magistrate Felix Kombo heard that the investigating officer had to date not handed his witness statement as required by law and that a review of the entire file and the evidence given showed that the testimonies were at variance to charges brought against the former KPLC bosses.

Chumo and Tarus were charged alongside Company Secretary Beatrice Meso, Manager Business Strategy KP Mungai, Manager Commercial Services Joshua Mutua, Human Resource Manager Abubakar Swaleh and ICT Manager Samuel Ndirangu.

Others are Infrastructure Development Manager Stanley Mutwiri, Network Manager Benson Muriithi, Regional Co-ordination Manager Peter Mwicigi and Supply Chain Manager John Ombui.

Muwa Trading Ltd, which was said to have supplied the transformers, and its directors James Mungai, Grace Mungai and John Mungai, were also facing the charges that ranged from conspiracy to commit an economic crime, abuse of office and fraudulent acquisition of public property.

Muwa’s charges were the first to be dropped. The DPP sought to press fresh charges but the magistrate declined. He appealed the decision before the anti corruption High Court. He, however, withdrew the case before Justice Esther Maina yesterday.

Chumo’s lawyer Moses Kurgat said that they were waiting for time to vindicate his client.

“Today, when we attended court in the morning, two events took place, one was in the High Court. The office of the DPP withdrew the application for review. The results of the morning session paved the way for the mention of the case before the magistrate’s court in which DPP withdrew the charges against my client. It was a relief for my client,” said Kurgat. Meanwhile, Chumo, said that it was a long and grueling years for him.

“We have gone through five long years, very unfair years. There have been careers broken along the way. We, however, thank God that we have come to the end of it. We were labelled criminals, thieves, and all service to the public got wasted in a day. I wish no one goes through this again,” said Chumo.

Waititu and county officials

The latest acquittals came barely a week after the High Court terminated charges against five Kiambu County employees who had been charged alongside former governor Ferdinand Waititu in a Sh588 million graft case.

Justice Esther Maina agreed that Zacharia Mbugua, Joyce Ngina, Simon Kang’ethe, Anslem Wanjiku and Samuel Muiga should be let off the hook after finding that they had made a case that they should not be in the graft case.

The five who were members of the Tender Evaluation Committee argued that it is unconstitutional and an abuse of the legal process to continue hearing evidence against them.

The case now remains with eight suspects. So far, the Director of Public Prosecution Noordin Haji has presented 27 witnesses. In a press statement, the DPP stated that he will be appealing Justice Maina’s verdict but will in the meantime continue with case before the lower court.

“The office of the Director of Public Prosecution being dissatisfied with the decision has initiated an appeal in the Court of Appeal against the whole decision and intends to proceed with the case against the other accused persons including Ferdinand Waititu which is still pending before the Chief Magistrates Court at Milimani Anti-corruption division,” said Haji.

Before the magistrate’s court, Waititu, his wife, former County Chief Officer for Roads Luka Mwangi, businessman Charles Chege and his wife Beth Wangeci, are facing charges of money laundering in relation to the irregular award of Sh588 million contracts for road repairs.

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