By Wahome Thuku
In October 2005, a rumour went round Lake Victoria’s Rusinga Island that a man called Lando was claiming he could make currency notes by magic.
It’s not clear how the story began, but shortly thereafter, a report was made to the police that Lando had been arrested by the public with 662,000 special papers similar to those used to make currency notes. It was claimed that Lando had been boasting he had the power to make currency notes. He was being held in the home of Odoyo.
It was not clear why the public, which would ordinarily be the beneficiary of such magic, had turned against him or why Odoyo was the man to hold him in his home.
Two police officers went to Odoyo’s home and found Lando seated in the compound surrounded by a large crowd of people. He had been tied with ropes. There was a khaki envelope beside the man, which contained black papers in the denominations of Sh1,000.
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Lando was taken to the police station. After investigation, it was established he resided at a local lodging. Police went there and accessed his room. As it was claimed later, they recovered several items including gadgets for making fake currency notes. They also recovered 662 such notes.
Soon after, he was arraigned before a magistrate’s court and charged with being in possession of papers for forgery contrary to section 367 of the Penal Code.
Only two police officers were called to testify. Odoyo was not called and neither the other people who allegedly saw or heard Lando claiming he could make money.
In his defence, Lando claimed Odoyo was framing him over a fish business deal gone sour. He said Odoyo was his agent in the business. He claimed he had given Odoyo’s wife Sh50,000, which he demanded for delivery of fish, or refund of the same.
He claimed the money was not refunded and Odoyo tied him with a rope and called the police alleging he was having an affair with his wife. After the trial, Lando was convicted and sentenced to five years in prison without the option of fine, perhaps on the belief that if a fine was imposed, he could make money and pay. He appealed to the High Court in Kisii in 2007.
The State conceded the appeal, accepting that the prosecution’s evidence was contradictory and several key witnesses had not been called. In July, last year, the judge delivered his verdict. What would your verdict be?
The judge noted that none of the people who reported the matter to the police were called as witnesses. The circumstances under which Lando was tied and held at the home of Odoyo were unclear. He noted that police should have called Odoyo to testify or any of the persons found guarding Lando at the home. The owner and/or manager of the lodging where he resided should also have been called to testify.
In the absence of all those potential witnesses and in the light of the appellant’s plausible defence, the judge ruled that the conviction was unsafe. He allowed the appeal, quashed the conviction and set aside the five-year sentence. Lando was set free.