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Police to question top Ruto aides over Sh40b guns fraud linked to Echesa

By Cyrus Ombati | Feb 15th 2020 | 5 min read
When Former CS Rashid Echesa visited Poland. [George Njunge, Standard]

The police plan to question top aides and staff of Deputy President William Ruto over the Sh39 billion military equipment tender deal, which has sunk former Cabinet Secretary Rashid Echesa.

This is after it emerged that much of the deal was negotiated and thrashed out within the DP’s Harambee House Annex office on a number of occasions.

The staff of interest to the police investigators include security officials, secretaries and aides serving in the office of the DP.

Police officers aware of the plans said they believe the staff had information on the conception and execution of the deal, which has added pile to shame of the office being used as a meeting place for such dealings (read separate story).

“They must have known something. Again the complainant has named some of the staff. We also recovered the fake tender papers from the office,” said a senior officer aware of the investigations.

Echesa was yesterday charged with forgery over the deals and released on Sh1 million bail. He will however spend the weekend in custody as the police complete their investigations.

He was arrested alongside Daniel Otieno Omondi, Kennedy Oyoo Mboya and Clifford Okoth.

Echesa, who was grilled for the entire day on Thursday, is said to have used the Office of the Deputy President and the signature of Defence Cabinet Secretary Monica Juma to cut the fraudulent multi-billion-shilling deal to supply military surveillance equipment and guns.

The complainant, who is an American based in Poland, told the police Echesa approached them through e-mail, introducing himself as a Kenyan politician who would hook them up with a lucrative Sh39.5 billion tender.

To show commitment, he is reported to have asked them to pay a firm known as Pizzle Consultancy $115,000 (Sh11.5 million) as consultancy fee.

The complainant said Echesa summoned the directors of the company into the country and had a meeting at a Nairobi hotel in the presence of people dressed in military uniforms, one of them introducing himself to the investors as a general who would be the user of the military equipment to be supplied to the Department of Defence.

The directors then arranged a trip for Echesa and three others to Poland, the headquarters of the company to inspect the surveillance equipment.

It is here that he said he would receive Sh52 million upon the signing of the contract after allegedly approving the standards of the equipment.

On Thursday, the two investors, an Egyptian and an American, were ushered in style at Harambee House Annex where the deal was to be signed, in the Office of the Deputy President.

They told the police they were shocked to establish the man who identified himself as a military general was dressed in a suit this time round.

They also said they never got to meet the Deputy President despite Echesa promising that the contract would be signed in his presence.

Fictitious documents

What baffled investigators is that the fictitious tender document found both in the Office of the Deputy President and in Echesa’s car, bore the signature of CS Juma, among other senior ministry officials.

Forensic investigations on the signatures have been launched as part of the probe.

In one instance, the men posing as top military generals had dinner in a restaurants in Gigiri area and even met a senator, saluted him and hurriedly took their booked tables and seats.

Tenders to supply firearms and ammunition are usually floated by respective departments that wants to procure the same. They include Department of Defence for the military, Ministry of Interior for the police, prisons and Kenya Wildlife Service.

Yesterday, Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) Chief Magistrate Lucas Onyina ruled that since some of the documents allegedly used by Echesa and his co-accused are in their houses, it is only fair to give the police time to search their residences to obtain the crucial evidence.

The prosecution had argued that the release of the accused before searches would hamper the ongoing investigations.

The magistrate however declined to grant the Special Crime Unit 21 days to detain the former CS and directed that he be released by 6pm on Monday, upon depositing a cash bail of Sh1 million.

“There is no evidence to prove the accused are a flight risk to warrant their detention but since the police require time to search their houses, I will give them until Monday after which the accused will be released on a cash bail of Sh1 million,” Onyina ruled.

They have been forbidden from contacting any of the witnesses lined up for the case.

The prosecution had earlier made an application to hold Echesa for 21 days as detectives travel to the United States to gather more evidence.

Politically instigated

His defence however argued that his arrest was politically instigated because of his stance on the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI).

Special Crime Unit investigator John Munjama, in his affidavit to support the application for detention, claimed that Echesa forged documents purporting that they were from the Ministry of Defence and Kenya Defence Forces to the foreign gun dealers.

“He used the documents to prepare a contract between the Ministry of Defence and Eco Advanced Technologies LLC, a company belonging to Kozlowski Stanley Bruno, an American citizen with the intention to obtain money from him by false pretence,” swore Munjama.

He said they arrested the former CS on Thursday after they received information that he, alongside Omondi, Mboya and Okoth were preparing to obtain money from Bruno in the name of awarding the guns supply tender.

“Going by the evidence so far collected, we believe the accused were engaging in business of impersonating senior government officials, which is a threat to national security,” Munjama said.

He said the documents were found hidden in Echesa’s car and they have reason to believe more evidence could be hidden in their houses and if released they could interfere with them before a search is carried out.

Consultancy fee

Munjama said investigators need to travel outside the country to establish some crucial facts, including existence of the company in the United States.

Echesa was arrested following claims by the American businessman that the four had swindled him of Sh11.5 million he paid as consultancy fee for the contract to supply military surveillance equipment, guns and ammunition.

But Echesa, through his lawyers, denied authoring the documents allegedly recovered from his vehicles by investigators.

They also opposed their detention, arguing that the charges they are facing are minor and do not warrant the lengthy stay in custody as applied for by the prosecution.

The magistrate directed that the case be mentioned on Tuesday next week for further directions.

[Additional reporting by Paul Ogemba]

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