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Suspended Judge Philip Tunoi accuser shows how alleged Sh200m bribe changed hands

By Daniel Psirmoi | Apr 28th 2016 | 4 min read
Geoffrey Kiplagat explains to members of the tribunal investigating Supreme Court judge Philip Tunoi how a bribe of Sh200 million allegedly changed hands at Petro petrol station in Nairobi. [PHOTO: DAVID NJAAGA/STANDARD]

The tribunal investigating suspended judge Philip Tunoi was yesterday taken through a simulation of how Sh200 million was handed over.

Justice Tunoi’s accuser, Geoffrey Kiplagat, pointed out the scene where the alleged bribe by Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero exchanged hands at Petro petrol station along Waiyaki Way, Nairobi.

The Sharad Rao-led tribunal is probing claims by Mr Kiplagat that Tunoi received the bribe from the governor to deliver a favourable ruling in an election petition filed by his competitor, Ferdinand Waititu.

A white Mercedes Benz, which Kiplagat says he rode in with Tunoi and lawyer Katwa Kigen, was parked alongside a Toyota Prado VX of the same colour that was allegedly used by Dr Kidero, as he gave a blow-by-blow account of how the money allegedly exchanged hands.

Tunoi’s lead lawyer Fred Ngatia asked Kiplagat to demonstrate how the briefcase with the money in dollars was handed over from Kidero’s car.

The former journalist was taken to task at one point when it proved impossible to pass the bag from one of the car windows to another.

In an interview on a TV station, Kiplagat had claimed it took three minutes to give out the bag.

Assisting counsel Paul Nyamodi timed the simulation twice and the exchange in both instances took less than one minute, and not three minutes as claimed by Kiplagat.

At the scene of the simulation, Kiplagat was put to task by Mr Ngatia.

Lawyer Ngatia: In the interview you gave on TV you said it took three minutes to hand over the bag, we did that in 35 and 45 seconds.

Kiplagat: It was a slip of the tongue. The distance between the parked vehicles in this re-enactment is not the same as what was at that time.

Ngatia: Kileleshwa where you were picked from is quite a considerable distance from the scene where you took us. Do you know where this other vehicle, let’s call it the governor’s vehicle, was coming from?

Kiplagat: I do not know where it was coming from. But the two vehicles arrived at the petrol station at the same time.

Ngatia: The vehicles at the petrol station were packed as you demonstrated. The tribunal gave you every opportunity to show the drivers how to park the cars as near to each other as possible, to what you could recollect. Were you given that opportunity?

Kiplagat: Yes, I was recollecting the parking positions then, but it was not a matter of closeness or distance apart.

Ngatia: In your earlier testimony, you said a gentleman named Kiprop came out of the governor’s vehicle, walked in front of it, walked a distance between the two cars and came to the driver’s side of the car you were in. Would you agree with me that walk would be at least 10 metres?

Kiplagat: It was not scientific. Re-enacting a past scene is not scientific, not to the point. It must have been 10 metres. Members of the tribunal can approximate the distance as they were there during the simulation.

Ngatia: Kiprop had to walk that distance. The petrol station is active. There are station attendants and motorists. A heavy bag carried from one car to the other in a busy place shuffled through the driver’s seat of a smaller car to the back-seat.

Kiplagat: That is what happened...

Ngatia: Sometimes ago you were interviewed at NTV. Was the interview at your own will? Did you have an impediment of any kind at that time?

Kiplagat: Yes I did the interview in my right frame of mind. Just like I am now.

Ngatia: In the video interview you said, “I think it was about USD2 million. You said that for the simple reason that you were not there when the money was put in the bag. Or were you there?

Kiplagat: The interview was between me and the TV station. I did not anticipate that anything I said back then would be subject to a tribunal sitting like this one.

Ngatia: But saying ‘I think’ signifies you did not know how much the amount of money, if any, was in the bag as you claim?

Kiplagat: I said that because that was the amount of money stated by Mr Kigen. I do not want to repeat what is in my affidavit. I definitely did not count what was in the bag.

Ngatia: You also said in the TV interview that the briefcase was thrown from one car to the other. You understand throwing a briefcase from one car to another is different from carrying it like you simulated?

Kiplagat: It was my first media interview. Do not take whatever I was talking on that day seriously, though I was speaking the truth. It was a small-time talk. A language issue.

Ngatia: Unfortunately unlike you, our lives are on the line, do not trivialise this matter. We must worry about the language. We must give words their meaning. The tribunal is here for serious business.

Kiplagat: In the interview, I meant what happened this morning (simulation). Maybe, I did not take the interviewer seriously. The manner of conveyance of my message was different. If perhaps I was interviewed by KTN, I could have said ‘delivered’ or ‘transported’ to mean the same thing.

Ngatia: Do you understand as an individual that your story is always undergoing mutation?

Kiplagat: I am not changing anything. I am saying what happened so that I do not tell a lie.

The tribunal will today listen to evidence from businessman Mike Njeru and Kidero’s aide John Osogo named in the affidavit.

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