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NCPB officials charged over fake fertiliser

 NCPB officials (from left) John Mbaya Matere, John Kiplangat Ngetich and Joseph Muna Kimote at Milimani Law Courts. [Collins Kweyu, Standard]

At least three National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) senior officials were on Thursday charged over the alleged distribution of substandard fertiliser.

The officials were charged alongside two firms said to be the suppliers.

Those charged are Joseph Muna, John Kiplangat and John Mbaya, as well as 51 Capital Kenya and SBL Innovative Manufacturers. They all faced 10 counts relating to the supply of 139,688 bags of fertiliser.

In the first count Muna, who is NCPB managing director, Kiplangat (the company secretary) and Mbaya (chairman development committee) were accused of conspiring to defraud Kenyans more than Sh209 million.

51 Capital Kenya and SBL Innovative Manufacturers also faced the same count.

The NCPB officials and the two companies were charged before Milimani Anti-Corruption Court Magistrate Celesa Okore. They all denied the charges.

According to the prosecution, the alleged crimes were committed between March 17, 2022 and March 8, this year.

“Between March 17, 2022, and March 8, 2024, in the country jointly with others not before court they conspired with intent to defraud Kenyan farmers sold a total of 139,688 bags of 25 kilogrammes each of soil amendment and conditioner valued at Sh209,532,000 purporting it to be genuine fertiliser”, the first charge read in part.

In the meantime, businessman Josiah Kariuki will face the first count of conspiracy to defraud Kenyans.

He will also have a separate charge where he is accused of forging a Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) permit in order to clear the way for 51 Capital African Diatomite Industries to strike a deal with NCPB to supply the condemned soil and conditioner branded as fertiliser.

Forged permit

Kairuki is also being accused of uttering an agreement between 51 Capital and NCPB on January 18, 2023.

On the fourth charge against Kariuki, the prosecution alleges that he uttered a forged permit that paved the way for 51 capital African Diatomite Industries Limited to use standardisation mark 14617.

On the other hand, Kariuki, 51 Capital and SBL Innovative are accused of selling fertiliser which did not meet the Kebs standards. Kariuki was not present in court. He will be charged on Monday.

The NCPB boss was on the other hand accused of abuse of office. It was claimed that he illegally executed an agreement between NCPB and the two companies on March 31, 2024, in a bid to confer a benefit to Kairuki.

In the meantime, Kiplagat faced a similar charge to that of Muna. The State claimed that he executed an agency contract between the board and the two companies.

Plea for bail

The defence counsel led by Katwa Kigen, Danstan Omari and Samson Nyamberi opposed to the three accused people being denied bail, saying that they were senior businessmen in the country with families and homes and can not run away from attending court sessions if given bond.

“Your honour a cash bail of Sh100,000 is better placed to be given to the accused persons,” said Kigen.

The team added that information which had been given in court by the prosecution that they were still being investigated was untrue because the Director of Public Prosecutions Renson Mulele Ingonga had indicated that the three had already been investigated and found culpable to answer charges.

The defence further noted that the three accused people had been investigated and probed by a number of investigating agencies, among them the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI), and even faced the National Assembly Agriculture Committee.

They added that Matiri, who is the third accused person, had been an advocate of the High Court of Kenya for many years and knows the consequence of absconding court appearances, adding that he cannot run away from the country.

Defence team for the first accused person Josiah Kariuki Kimani informed the magistrate that their client had been given anticipatory bail by a Kibera court through Judge Diana Kavetsa on April 3, 2024. He was given a cash bail of Sh100,000.

They indicated that the court ordered the DPP to press charges against him after the investigations are complete, adding that he was to be informed by the case investigating officer but only learnt of it through social media.

His lawyer claimed that it was difficult for him to travel within a day because of the prevailing floods in the country and needs to be given more time until Monday.

The prosecution, through Evarline Onunga, indicated in court that the first accused person was lying because when he was called by the investigating officer, he switched off his phone.

Public interest

Onunga went on to say that Kimani, knowing that the case was of public interest and was being sought, would have presented himself in court.

“Your honour the conduct of the first person is wanting and has proved to be of one who is not to be trusted by court. The flooding issue is a mockery to the court by him and we are applying for a warrant of arrest against him,” said Onunga.

Kimani is the director of the fifth and sixth companies that are also accused in the charge sheet.

On the first three accused persons, Onunga said that the State was objecting to them being released on bond or bail because the accused people had the capability to suppress and interfere with the evidence.

The case will be mentioned on May 20.

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