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Justice Philip Tunoi bribery claims jolt Judiciary

KENYA
By Kamau Muthoni | January 26th 2016

The Judiciary was yesterday jolted by claims that a senior judge received money to influence a case at the highest court in the land.

Chief Justice Willy Mutunga confirmed he had in November received a complaint against Supreme Court Judge Philip Tunoi and that he had ordered thorough internal investigations. Dr Mutunga has summoned a special sitting of the Judicial Service Commission on Wednesday, where he will present the probe findings.

Justice Tunoi is alleged to have received two million dollars (Sh200 million) in order to influence an election petition against Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero, filed by election challenger Ferdinand Waititu.

But the Supreme Court judge has strongly denied the claims, terming them as pure lies.

"I don't know the guy. I have never met him. I was not even the presiding judge in the case. I have never received money from him. I have only seen him on TV," Tunoi said.

The allegations are contained in an affidavit sworn by Geoffrey Kiplagat, a former journalist with Kass FM.

His role, he said, was to hunt for a judge in order to have him influence the final verdict in Waititu's election petition.

According to Mr Kiplagat, several meetings were held in Kileleshwa, which resulted in the deal. The bench in the Waititu case comprised justices Tunoi, Njoki Ndung'u, Smokin Wanjala, Mohamed Ibrahim and Jackton Ojwang'.

When the allegations were aired by NTV on Sunday, all the people mentioned in the affidavit dismissed the claims as pure lies.

Dr Kidero's lawyer, Tom Ojienda, defended the governor saying: "He has never met any of the Supreme Court judges for whatever reason. He doesn't know about these (allegations). He has never seen the affidavit. He will need more time to respond appropriately."

Lawyer Katwa Kigen, whom Kiplagat claims picked him and "the boss" to deliver the money, said: "These are total lies. I do not know why someone would want to make up such a story."

Yesterday, the Chief Justice confirmed that he received Kiplagat's affidavit last November. "I received a complaint against a Supreme Court judge by way of a sworn affidavit in November 2015. I ordered thorough investigations be carried out," he said.

Mutunga added, "I also authorised that this should include cross-checking the contents of the sworn affidavit with other Government agencies to verify the information contained therein. That process is now complete and a report has been concluded."

He said the report would be presented to the JSC and other Government agencies, including the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) and the Director of Public Prosecutions.

The revelations come barely a month after Mutunga told the world in an interview published by Dutch publication, NRC Handelsblad, that Kenya was a bandit economy where the Executive, police, Judiciary and politicians were corrupt.

Mutunga also invited EACC and the Auditor General to conduct a lifestyle audit of judicial officers and promised to lead the way by declaring his wealth.

The election petition against Kidero was first filed before High Court Judge Richard Mwongo who dismissed the case.

Waititu then moved to the Court of Appeal, which ruled the governor was not validly elected.

It was then that Kidero lodged an appeal at the Supreme Court before the five-judge bench with Tunoi presiding.

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