Acquittal of persons accused of graft should spur search for justice

Businessman Yagnesh Devani was acquitted in multibillion Triton oil scandal case on February 12, 2024. [Collins Kweyu,Standard]

The acquittal of four people in the multi-billion shillings Triton oil scandal involving billionaire businessman Yagnesh Devani seems to be a continuation of the collapsing mega corruption cases.

It follows in the footsteps of the Sh63 billion Arror and Kimwarer dams scandal which collapsed leading to the acquittal of former Treasury CS Henry Rotich and four others. Last week, former Governor Mike Sonko and 16 others walked free after the magistrate ruled that there was no evidence they misappropriated Sh357 million belonging to Nairobi County Government. Sadly, nearly all mega corruption cases brought before courts collapsed for lack of evidence.

Questions abound:  Who should take responsibility for the collapse these cases? Is it the courts, the investigating agencies or the prosecution? Why does the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) push cases to court without evidence to sustain charges? Does acquitting the accused mean that no money was lost?

When accused persons are acquitted, the buck stops with the DPP. As the office with prosecutorial powers, the DPP must see to it that all criminal cases are tried to their logical conclusion and account to the public. Logical conclusion does not mean allowing the cases to end at the trial magistrate’s court after acquittal.

Logical conclusion means the DPP should appeal the acquittals at the High Court, Court of Appeal and even at the Supreme Court. It is only after all the court’s hierarchy are exhausted that the public can be sure that the cases have been tried to their logical conclusion.

Interestingly, the DPP rarely appeals any of the major acquittals involving alleged loss of billions of public funds. The people have been left to contend with the fact that their money was lost and there is nothing they can do about it. And that is not a new trend.

The multi-billion shillings Goldenberg scandal of 1990s involving businessman Kamlesh Pattni went to rest following his acquittal and Kenyans have know the fate of Sh158.3 billion said to have been lost in the criminal enterprise. Then came the Anglo-leasing scandal where it was claimed taxpayers’ Sh10 billion was lost through a contract to modernise police security systems.

That too went to rest when the accused were acquitted.  There are many similar cases. The behaviour of the DPP - failing to appeal the cases-suggests either that no money was lost in the alleged shady deals or the amounts lost was inconsequential. Which we all know is rarely the case.

If those acquitted are innocent of the crimes they had been accused of, which is okay, the most appropriate thing for the DPP to do is to order fresh investigations to unmask the real faces behind the mega scandals to ensure that justice is done. Until architects of such scandals are arrested and punished and deprived of their ill-gotten wealth, investigators and prosecutors cannot rest on their laurels. Failing to pursue these cases to their logical conclusion is reckless on their part. It is a  don’t-care attitude over theft of public resources that is condemnable.