Ex-Murang'a governor, two others in court over Sh351m county scam

Former Muranga Governor Mwangi wa Iria, David Maina Njeri and Solomon Mutura Kimani when they were charged at a Milimani court on Tuesday, April 30, 2024. [Collins Kweyu, Standard]

Former Murang’a Governor Mwangi wa Iria was yesterday charged with alleged Sh351 million graft.

The Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition leader faces charges including abuse of office and money laundering. Iria was charged alongside David Maina Njeri and Solomon Mutura Kimani.

The former Governor presented himself at the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) police station yesterday morning after the High Court lifted conservatory orders stopping his arrest and his prosecution alongside his wife Jane Waigwe Kimani and others.

Justice Nixon Sifuna, in a ruling on Monday afternoon, ordered that Iria and his co-accused to go the Integrity Centre the following day for fingerprint taking and statement recording ahead of arraignment in court.

He ordered their arrest if they failed to comply.

They had on April 17 obtained conservatory orders stopping their arrest. In the first count, the three are accused of unlawfully contracting Top Image Media Consultants Ltd for media services for Sh351,097,491.15 between October 21, 2014 and June 19, 2017.

The other counts facing the former Governor stated that between May 20, 2014 and June 19, 2017, he acquired a direct contract between the county government and Top Image for the provision of media buying services.

According to the charge sheet, he received Sh31,829,800 from the company.

Iria alongside Njeri and Kimani faces another count of money laundering. The anti-corruption agency claims that the former Governor, directors of Top Image and Value View Ltd entered into an arrangement for the transfer of Sh7.5 million towards the purchase of a plot located at Umoja Innercore, Nairobi.

The court indicated that the money was paid by the county government to Top Image, whose effect was to disguise the source of the money while they knew it was proceeds of crime.

In court, Iria was escorted by Azimio leaders among them co-principal Kalonzo Musyoka, former Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya, Kitui Senator Enoc Wambua and Embakasi West MP Mark Mwenje.

The defence team led by Kalonzo, Peter Wanyama, Ndegwa Njiru and Wilfred Nyamu objected to the accused being denied bail, stating that they were not a flight risk and would obey all court orders as they attended proceedings.

They stated that Iria proved that he didn’t intend to abscond court or jump bail by heeding to the court directive to present himself to the EACC police station.

Nyamu observed that Iria’s wife, who is also a suspect, had not attended court because she had been taken ill and was under medical observation. They asked the court to give her up to Tuesday alongside another suspect David Maina Kiama whom his lawyer indicated was in Tanzania doing construction work.

“Apart from being the immediate former Murang’a Governor, the first accused is a leader of a political party called Usawa Party and for him to deposit his passport and seek the order of the court to travel is quite excessive as it will stop him from networking for his political party even outside the country. Kindly consider him not depositing his passport in court,” said Nyamu.

He added that Iria has been travelling outside the country and returning, an indication that he can’t run away.

The prosecution didn’t object to the suspects being released on bond or bail, but maintained that the terms should be commensurate with the charges that the accused are facing, which they described as serious.

They added that Iria has a lot of influence, pointing at the political heavyweights who escorted him to court and that he should not interfere with witnesses once the prosecution serves them with evidential materials.

“Your honour each of them should deposit passports in court if they have them. They should also leave the jurisdiction of the court after making an application,” said the prosecution.

The State also denied the charges were not a political witch hunt, saying EACC did investigations and forwarded the file to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, who satisfied the charges after finding that there was sufficient evidence for them to stand trial.

They all denied the charges at the Milimani Anti-Corruption Court.

The former Governor was released on a bond of Sh20 million with one surety or a cash bail of Sh10 million. Chief Magistrate Thomas Nzioki ordered Iria’s wife and Kiama to appear in court on Tuesday.

Njeri was set free on a bond of Sh5 million and one surety of a similar amount or a cash bail of Sh1 million, while Kimani was released on a Sh7 million bond with one surety of a similar amount or Sh4 million cash bail.

They were all ordered to deposit their travelling documents in court.

The case will be mentioned on May 14.

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