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Police visit Ruto’s office, DoD in Sh39b arms probe

NAIROBI
By Cyrus Ombati | February 18th 2020

Former Sports CS Rashid Echesa at a Milimani court where he faced charges ranging from forgery, obtaining money by false pretences and impersonating senior government officials. [George Njunge, Standard]

Two foreign arms dealers yesterday retraced their steps to Department of Defence headquarters in Nairobi, where they reportedly told police they visited with their Kenyan contacts who are on trial for attempting to defraud them.

American Kozlowski Stanley Bruno and Egyptian Mamdough Mostafa Lofty were accompanied by detectives from the Directorate of Criminal Investigations as  investigation into the fake Sh39 billion arms deal moved to DoD. 

Sources said the two claimed they visited DoD last month as part of their orientation in the course of trying to close the deal for supply of military equipment, which Kenyan authorities have termed fake.

The arms dealers told police they accessed DOD using the Lenana Road gate next to the Russian Embassy.

Earlier, the two and the detectives had gone to the Office of the Deputy President at Harambee House Annex in the city centre where they say they signed the deal which they later learnt was fake. 

In court, former Sports Cabinet Secretary Rashid Echesa -whom prosecutors allege presented himself to the arms dealers as a personal assistant to the DP - and his three co-accused were charged with 12 counts, including forgery, obtaining money by false pretence and impersonating senior government officials.

Military fights back

Echesa, Daniel Omondi alias General Juma, Clifford Okoth, and Kennedy Mboya denied the charges yesterday and were released on bail. (See separate story)  

Yesterday, DoD Director of Public Communications Bogita Ongeri confirmed the detectives visited Ulinzi House to ascertain the officers the group allegedly met and the offices they accessed.

He said it was established the dealers and their brokers never interacted with any official mandated to represent the Ministry of Defence.

“The visit further revealed that the complainants have never been to Ulinzi House, the Ministry of Defence Headquarters as has been alleged. For avoidance of doubt all the documents and content displayed in the media pertaining this matter never originated from the Ministry of Defence,” said Ongeri.

He said the ministry distances itself from the alleged involvement in the fake arms procurement scam and added they have elaborate procurement processes and structures that ensure transparency and accountability process as guided by the law.

On Sunday, Ruto dragged DoD into the saga, saying investigations should establish whether the foreigners visited there too for the truth to come out.

“ODP does not procure for any ministry/department. Question: Other than 23 minutes in Annex, for months, which government offices involved in the ‘tender’ did the scammers visit? Did they access DoD? Who facilitated? Who did they meet? Get the truth. Forget the sponsored nonsense in media,” the DP said in a tweet.

Yesterday, the detectives also visited the DP’s office together with the merchants and took away CCTV footage that captured the February 13 meeting on the second floor.

Ruto’s statement

The officers also talked to staff who interacted with Echesa and the two dealers before they went to the control room for the footage.

Officials aware of the probe said they intend to interrogate a number of staff concerned with the events of February 13 at the office.

The footage, according to those who have seen it, shows the two foreigners being ushered into the office together with Echesa and supplied with drinks and snacks in the diplomatic boardroom. The dealers told police they signed the deal in the boardroom.

Yesterday, Ruto’s spokesman David Mugonyi, however, said in a statement Echesa and the men did not access any other office other than the public waiting room.

Mugonyi then gave the version of events on February 13. “A review of CCTV footage shows that on Thursday, February 13, between 9.39.05am and 10.02am (a total of 23 minutes, as per the recording), Mr Echesa in the company of two men visited the Office claiming he had an appointment. Security officers manning the reception ushered him and two men in his company, to the public waiting room, as is the standard applied procedure to all visitors,” read the statement. 

He explained that anyone who accesses the ODP is duly documented and the particulars of all visits taken. Everything is captured by CCTV.

Mugonyi added the deputy president was not in the office at the time and did not have an appointment with the group either.

Echesa and his team, Mugonyi explained, also did not meet any officer who works for the deputy president other than the security officers manning the reception. The statement added Chief of Staff Ken Osinde, Private Secretary Reuben Maiyo and Personal Assistant Farouk Kibet were not in Harambee House Annex on the material day as alleged. 

Mugonyi said Ruto was not at the office at that time as he was working from his Karen office before he left to attend a funeral in Murang’a County that morning and his diary did not have any appointment with Echesa.

According to Mugonyi, when Echesa and his dealers were informed the DP was not in, they left.

Mugonyi said the office does not procure goods and services for any state department or entities and it does not provide legal, technical or facilitation services for signing agreements in waiting room.

He said police had reviewed the CCTV footage of the said meeting and interrogated the security personnel who were on duty.

“The deputy president considers this a very serious matter involving a government office and being an issue that has recurred in many such offices wants investigations expedited devoid of political and media propaganda,” he said.

The complainant, who is an American, but based in Poland, told police Echesa approached them through mail in October 2019, 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 as General Omondi 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.

They were arrested along Harambee Avenue as they left the DP’s office where they had allegedly signed the fake deal.

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