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Senate Minority Leader Moses Wetangula refutes BAT bribery story, demands immediate apology

By Standard Reporter | December 3rd 2015

Senate Minority Leader Moses Wetangula has discredited a British Broadcasting Co-operation (BBC) alleged investigative exposure linking him to a bribery scandal to interfere with anti-smoking laws.

Senator Wetangula yesterday at Parliament Building, flanked by over ten legislators, including National Assembly Deputy Minority Leader Jakoyo Midiwo (Gem) and Deputy Minority Whip Chris Wamalwa (Kiminini) said the British American Tobacco (BAT) took offense with the bribery claims by the BBC and a section of local news outlets, terming it an erroneous reporting.

He said those serious allegations had been made against his person to the effect that BAT funded his trip to London Olympics in 2012 and warned that he was not going to take the matter lying down.

Further he censured the media report on claims that, while in United Kingdom he was hosted at Global House-BAT's UK headquarters.

Wetangula denied knowledge of the existence of Globe House, nor its address or location.

"I find the allegation that the trip was funded by some private corporate nauseating, unfortunate, scandalous, malicious and slanderous to the extreme. For the record, I have no dealings of any nature whatsoever with BAT and Julie Adelle-Owino, the officer said to have facilitated the transaction, has categorically denied ever pro0curing a ticket for me," noted Wetangula.

Wetangula, who is also Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (Cord) co-Principal, instead maintained his innocence in the entire bribery syndicate and demanded an apology from the media channels that linked him to the saga.

"The BBC, the Standard and several other media outlets for reasons only known to them, have generated the malicious rumour to besmirch my reputation and character. The story purports to source its authority from pseudo emails whose authenticity cannot be verified," he criticized the media reports.

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He continued, "To call this investigative story casts a big shadow on the quality and profession of journalism. The local media is only using this libelous story from BBC to carry their favorite story, the so called IEBC plans to remove my name from the voters' register."

Wetangula has now directed his lawyer, Senior Counsel Senator James Orengo (Siaya), to issue a 48 hour demand notice to the media houses that carried the story, to retract and apologize, failure of which, he will have his day with them in court.

The BBC, through its investigative programme Panorama, has accused BAT of bribing senior politicians, public officials and even people working for a rival company in East Africa.

BAT is UK's fifth biggest company and last year it sold 667 billion cigarettes and made Sh693 billion (£4.5 billion) profit. It has big operations in Kenya.

According to Orengo's letter, he errors the media reports, in particular BBC and Standard Newspaper, for reporting false and defamatory words in relation to Wetangula.

The letter by J.A.B Orengo advocates reads, “in light of the above, our instructions are therefore to demand from you a written, unconditional and unreserved apology."

"An immediate admission of liability further to which, we shall, address the question of damages and your expenses undertaking not to publish, print or broadcast any words, statements or report defamatory of our client," stated Orengo.

He adds: "Take notice that unless we hear from you on this matter immediately, we have mandatory instructions to institute legal proceedings against you at your own peril as the costs and other consequences."

While setting the records straight at a press conference yesterday, Wetangula refuted claims that he received any air ticket and money to facilitate his travel to London from BAT.

He recounted that in his official capacity as Trade minister, then, he accompanied the former president Mwai Kibaki to the Olympics in London, which was fully paid for by the Kenyan government.

"The Government had offered a business class ticket to London. Why would I pick a least cost ticket when the government's offer was the best?" he asked.

"I was part of the Kenyan delegation to the Olympics, which also coincided with an investment conference for Kenya at that time. Except for the officials from the ministry of trade, I did not travel with any other person, not even my personal Assistant," said a seemingly composed Wetangula.

He clarified, "My travel and subsistence expenses, including per diem and clearance by the president are available for verification by the media at the ministry. While in London, I and several members of the Kenyan delegation stayed at the Holiday Inn Regent Park Hotel."

The programme, dubbed The Secret Bribes of Big Tobacco, also names Ms Adell-Owino, for allegedly arranged bribes totaling Sh2.6 million ($26,000) for three public officials in Rwanda, Burundi and the Comoros Islands. She is a former head of corporate and regulatory affairs at BAT.

The email says Wetangula will be "hosted at Globe House" - BAT's London headquarters.

Adell-Owino's email said the transaction should be "paperless" and there should be "no receipts if any in his name". UNLAWFUL BRIBES BAT, in a document from a UK employment tribunal, describes the payments to these officials as "unlawful bribes".

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