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Lands CS Charity Ngilu surrenders to EACC to avoid arrest

Suspended Lands Cabinet Secretary Charity Ngilu last evening presented herself to the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) to avoid the embarrassing scenario of detectives having to arrest her.

Ngilu turned up at EACC’s Integrity Centre offices in Nairobi, hours after Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Keriako Tobiko approved the recommendation that she be charged with the lesser offence of obstructing investigations during the probe into the Sh8 billion Karen land grab.

Tobiko’s clearance means Ngilu will be charged probably tomorrow, becoming  the second CS in the Jubilee government to be prosecuted following investigations into the dossier. President Uhuru Kenyatta submitted it to Parliament in March detailing dozens of top officials including CSs, Principal Secretaries and governors accused of corruption.

Ngilu is expected to appear in court to answer to charges of obstructing investigations into the alleged grabbing of 134.4 acres in Karen, reportedly, by influential personalities.

After spending about two hours with EACC detectives who took her fingerprints, Ngilu was released on a cash bail of Sh50,000. She told journalists she had presented herself at Integrity Centre after learning from the media of her impending arrest.

"Let me make it clear that I am not facing corruption charges. I will be in court for obstructing investigations," said Ngilu who was accompanied by lawyers Paul Muite and Kioko Kilukumi.

Withhold documents

Although EACC investigations showed the land is private, four top Lands ministry officials and former National Social Security Fund Managing Trustee Jos Konzolo will be arraigned in court to face fraud charges.

They include Chief Lands Registrar Sarah Mwenda, her deputy Geoffrey Birundu, Senior Deputy Director of Survey Pauline Gitimu and Senior Registrar of Titles Andrew Muigai.

Yesterday, Tobiko said EACC had absolved Ngilu of involvement in the fraudulent transactions, but recommended her prosecution for ordering her officers to withhold some documents from EACC.

"However, EACC has recommended that the CS be charged with obstruction/hindering investigations. She is alleged to have obstructed/hindered the collection of evidence regarding fraudulent transactions by directing ministry officials not to release documents and record statements with EACC investigators," Tobiko said in a statement yesterday.

The decision had been preceded by dramatic developments, including Ngilu's lawyers reportedly writing to the DPP to protest that the EACC was hounding her even after realising there was no evidence to prove her culpability in corrupt dealings.

Before then, the seasoned politician posted a series of messages on social media declaring her innocence and blaming her tribulations on alleged powerful forces furious about the reforms she was undertaking in the lands sector.

When Ngilu recently publicised her departure to Paris, France, to attend a high profile United Nations global event suggesting that she was representing Kenya, it was interpreted as an indication that she was making a return to the Cabinet.

But State House later clarified that she had travelled in an individual capacity.

"Ngilu travelled in her private capacity and it has nothing to do with the Government," said State House Spokesman Manoah Esipisu.

Esipisu added: "On her current status, it requires that she seeks clearance so that it is known where she is and yes, she sought that and the Chief of Staff (Joseph Kinyua) granted it."

Yesterday, the DPP revealed that, also to face trial is Ganze MP Peter Shehe for alleged misuse of CDF funds through fictitious projects.

Tobiko said the accused persons remain innocent until proven otherwise, and so he could not comment further on the matter. EACC is expected to swing into action and arrest the officials.

On Ngilu, EACC had been looking into allegations that top Government officials, MPs, State or public officers are among beneficiaries of the subdivided land in Karen valued at Sh8 billion.

The land had also allegedly been allocated to Horatious Da Gama Rose of Ms Mchanga Investments and Jos Konzolo of Telesource Limited. Ngilu has denied the allegations.

She now becomes be the second CS to take plea after her Transport counterpart, Michael Kamau, who is already facing abuse of office charges over a road contract.

The commission had been investigating three allegations against Ngilu, including her alleged involvement in the Waitiki farm saga and another parcel of land on State House Crescent.

She has since been cleared over the Waitiki farm while the State House Crescent land is still with the EACC.

Ngilu is among five CSs who were suspended over corruption claims. The others are Kamau, Felix Koskei (Agriculture), Davis Chirchir (Energy) and Kazungu Kambi (Labour).

Rampant fraud

In the past week, Ngilu has been on the warpath against the anti-corruption agency, and even wrote to the DPP to protest the manner in which EACC was handling her case.

Once Ngilu is charged, the ongoing court case, related to the matter, could take a new dimension after fresh details emerged again pointing to the possibility of rampant fraud in the acquisition and transfer of the controversial Karen land.

Of the five CSs, so far Koskei has been cleared in two files, while Kambi and Chirchir's files were returned to EACC.

EACC is yet to forward files of PSs and CEOs of State corporations to Tobiko and the agency's CEO Halakhe Waqo has already sought more time to complete the probe.

The anti-graft agency's detectives have so far grilled four PSs, two senators, 12 governors and 11 senior Government officials, including heads of parastatals.

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