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Fatou Bensouda: ‘Big man’ Ruto gave witnesses kickbacks

NATIONAL
By Kamau Muthoni | May 11th 2021
Lawyer Paul Gicheru. [File, Standard]

Witnesses who recanted their evidence against Deputy President William Ruto and radio journalist Joshua arap Sang at the International Criminal Court were offered kickbacks of between Sh500,000 and Sh2 million.

In fresh court filings, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda claims that witnesses admitted meeting lawyer Paul Gicheru and were offered money to withdraw as prosecution witnesses and some relocated from their homes.

The prosecutor claims there was a ranking process that determined how much one was to be paid.

Gicheru surrendered to ICC last year after an arrest warrant issued by the Hague-based court over claims of witness interference.

“It is unsurprising since the modus operandi of Gicheru and his associates was to leverage the intermediaries’ knowledge of prosecution witnesses to target and corruptly influence them. Then, in turn, these corrupted witnesses were used to target other witnesses known to them. The inevitable result is that many of the targeted witnesses knew each other,” Bensouda claims in the court papers.

According to Bensouda, one witness, P-0274, narrated that Gicheru informed them that they needed to reach and buy out everyone involved to stop assisting ICC.

“Gicheru told P-0274 they needed to reach everyone and pay people to stop assisting the ICC, as the “big man”, Ruto, wanted “no stone left unturned,” she claimed.

The prosecutor, in her filings, is replying to lawyer Gicheru who terms her evidence as hearsay.

Bensouda claims that P-0274 alongside P-0341 attended victims’ public meeting at the beginning of the Ruto and Sang case. Both witnesses are alleged to have criticised Ruto.

According to her, P-0341 was tasked to influence P-0274 and he was supposed to rope in P-0356.

She claims that P-0341’s bank statements showed he received large installments of money. She adds that ICC investigators planned to meet this witness in 2014 but he declined, saying he was scared.

Other witnesses, P-0540 and P-0536, are alleged to have implicated Gicheru as the overall coordinator of the bribery machine. According to Bensouda, P-0536 is alleged to have received her payment through P-0540. The outgoing prosecutor claims that P-0536 was offered a bribe of between Sh1.4 million and Sh1.6 million.

The prosecutor says that Gicheru in other conversations is referred to as ‘’the lawyer’’ or ‘’fellow Kikuyu’’.

“P-0536’s evidence is corroborated by conversations with P-0540.These constitute independent and reliable evidence that on behalf of Gicheru, P-0540 offered P-0536 a bribe of between Sh1.4 million and Sh1.6 million to withdraw as a prosecution witness. These allegations are further supported by P-0800’s evidence and his conversations with P-0540,” Bensouda continues.

The prosecutor also claims that P-0495 was coached to lie by lawyers on behalf of Gicheru. Court documents filed by the prosecutor reads that this witness told investigators that he was supposed to meet Gicheru after accepting to withdraw, but did not speak to him all through.

According to her, the witness only dealt with P-0800 and P-0579. The prosecutor claims that on September 13, 2013, P-0800 called P-0495 over a meeting with P-0613 and asserted that ‘those people’ were waiting for him to go there.

“This exchange provides corroboration for the fact that P-0495 had in fact spoken with the people who were bribing him to withdraw, contrary to his claims to the investigators. The reality is that P-0495 said he expected P-0613 only after being confronted by OTP investigators with (redacted evidence) that showed he had already accepted a bribe to withdraw as a witness and was trying to corrupt P-0613 to do the same,” the prosecutor added.

“The defence disregards that P-0495 spontaneously disclosed to P-0613 the details of the offer, how the “value” of the witnesses was assessed, and that it was Gicheru who was the person she had to meet.”

Moreover, the prosecutor argues P-0800 was directly involved in the crimes attributed to Gicheru. She says that P-0800’s statements describe in detail P-0540’s actions to bribe him on behalf of Gicheru and how the lawyer finally arranged a meeting through P-0576 to personally offer P-0800 between Sh1.5 million and Sh2 million to withdraw as a prosecution witness and relocate.

She claims that P-0800’s account is corroborated by, among others, phone calls and the July 21, 2013 meetings between P-0540 and P-0800 in which P-0540 allegedly admitted that he was working for Gicheru, trying to find witnesses in Kenya and nearby countries and that the lawyer channeled the payments of bribes.

It is also alleged that P-0516 claimed that he was offered Sh500,000 by the lawyer and was paid. The prosecutor says at least four other witnesses – P-0397, P-0613, P-0800, and P-0431 – can corroborate this.

The prosecutor also claims that Gicheru threatened P-0397. This witness is alleged to have withdrawn from the case days after receiving a huge amount of money in his bank account. He is said to have received the money in two tranches.

According to her, there are calls between Gicheru and this witness on January 16, 2014, and the conversation was about ‘debt and promise’.

“When P-0397 says he considers returning to the ICC and asking his “white people” to come to look for him, Gicheru only responds “can the white people really be human, or?”, she claims, adding that this witness told P-0564 to return Sh1 million which he had received.

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