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State goes after Ruto's Mt Kenya ally, follows money trail

By Kamau Muthoni | May 29th 2020 at 12:00:00 GMT +0300

Deputy President William Ruto (left) flanked by Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua at the burial of the MP's mother Martha Kirigo in Nyeri. [Charles Kimani\DPPS]

The State has opened a corruption investigation against a Mt Kenya MP  who is an ardent supporter of Deputy President William Ruto's presidential bid.

Yesterday, a Nairobi court froze Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua's accounts in a microfinance institution following a successful application by the Assets Recovery Agency (ARA).

Milimani Court Senior Resident Magistrate Muthoni Nzibe barred Rigathi and five companies associated with him and his close allies from transacting with the accounts at Rafiki Microfinance Bank for seven days as ARA probes money laundering and graft claims against the lawmaker.

“It is hereby ordered that warrants to restrict debits for a period of seven days on Microfinance Bank listed below is hereby issued,” ruled Muthoni.

According to the court records, Rigathi has three accounts at Rafiki Microfinance Bank under his name. A firm by the name Wamunyoro Investment has two accounts while the third is Technical Supplies and Services Kenya Limited. All three accounts were frozen.

In addition, the court froze three other accounts belonging to Crystal Kenya Limited, Jenne Enterprises and Encartar Diagnostics Limited.

The agency led by Muthoni Kimani told the court that it was interested in Rigathi’s accounts for a period of six years. It stated that the probe will involve going through the account opening documents, statements of accounts from January 1, 2014, cheques and cash deposit slips, withdrawal slips, and RTGS transfers covering the same period.

According to ARA’s lawyer Stephen Githinji, the agency got to know on March 30, 2020,  that the MP was receiving suspicious moneys believed to be proceeds of crime.

Mr Githinji claimed the lawmaker was allegedly colluding with Nyeri County Government officials and the State’s department for irrigation to siphon taxpayers' money through his companies.

Money conduits

“There are reasonable grounds to believe that the accounts are used as conduits of money laundering contrary to sections three, four and seven as read with section 16 of Proceeds of Crime and Anti-Money Laundering Act,” argued Githinji.

“There is a real danger that the funds suspected in the listed bank accounts may be withdrawn, transferred, spent or dissipate rendering this application and indeed recovery of proceeds of crime nugatory."

Rigathi, a brother of the late Nyeri governor Nderitu Gachagua was once Uhuru's personal assistant when the future president was the Kanu national chairman, particularly the period of his failed presidential bid in 2002.

But Rigathi’s dalliance with Ruto would play out during his mother’s burial in January when the deputy president alongside his Tangatanga brigade, a team drumming for Ruto's 2022 presidential bid, used the ceremony to pledge their loyalty to Dr Ruto.

At some point, the burial became tense after Kieni MP Kanini Kega alleged he had brought donations from President Kenyatta.

Kanini, who is affiliated to Jubilee Party's Kieleweke lobby, was accused of undermining Ruto as the second in command by purporting to speak on behalf of his boss yet the deputy president was present.

Kanini had with him Sh500,000, which he said was from the Head of State and he topped up the amount with Sh100,000.

“I happened to meet with the president at the Coast and he said since he would not be able to attend the funeral, I should convey his condolences. He also sent me to bring Sh500,000 as his financial contribution and I have topped that up with Sh100,000,” Kanini said before handing over the cash.

His comments seemed to annoy the deputy president, who demanded respect from the MP.

“You all know that there is only one person in Kenya who was sworn in to deputise the president. And I will do that very diligently. Everybody should do their job. If you are working in a hospital, do that. If you are a watchman or MCA, do your job. Let us respect each other,” Ruto replied.

Rigathi, just as other lawmakers from Central region who are associated with Tangatanga, swore allegiance to Ruto come the 2022 General Election.

He now finds himself hunted by the State for alleged graft and might end up in court and have his wealth seized should the court find the State has a case against him.

The case will be heard on June 2.


THE STANDARD INSIDER

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