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Ruto’s close allies in frantic fights for survival as cases weigh them down

By Paul Ogemba and Rawlings Otieno | July 4th 2020
Deputy President William Ruto, Nandi Governor Stephen Sang and Soi MP Caleb Kositany (far left) during the funeral of businessman Nyogosei Tarus at Chepkatet, Nandi County, yesterday. [Peter Ochieng, Standard]

Deputy President William Ruto has leapt from his political troubles to a new normal as allies duck, the long arms of law in their pursuit.

In his new normal, Ruto is back to hosting charity delegations and prayer sessions at his Nairobi and Uasin Gishu homes while his legion of political friends keep a distant.

Yesterday, he hosted worship sessions at his Sugoi home, a day after he distributed an assortment of equipment at his official residence in Karen in Nairobi.

In the two events, only a handful of his political acolytes turned up. In the Nairobi event, besieged Nominated Senator Millicent Omanga stole the show. In the Sugoi event yesterday, however, slightly more turned up - MPs Oscar Sudi, Caleb Kositany and Nandi Governor Stephen Sang.

Top allies

Covid-19 restrictions aside, a good number of DP allies are weighed down by many allegations which further inform their abstentions from the events.

The latest are two top allies, who were barely settling to their new normal, before they were quietly slapped with a huge tax bills.

But they are lucky, many of their colleagues are battling either protracted investigations or active court cases, which may spill over into the 2022 election season and complicate their political mathematics.

Samburu Governor Moses Lenolkulal, his Nairobi Counterpart Mike Sonko, impeached Kiambu Governor Ferdinand Waititu and Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua are some of the politicians associated to the DP facing the brunt of state prosecution over corruption claims.

Ruto himself is also fighting a court case to clear his name over allegations that he irregularly acquired a land belonging to Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) near Wilson Airport to construct the Weston Hotel.

According to KCAA, Weston Hotel colluded with two firms to grab its land in Nairobi’s Lang’ata, but the DP has maintained that he followed due process and legally bought the land from Priority Ltd and Monene Investment Ltd.

The latest entrant in the long list of DP’s allies who have been dragged to court is former Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri, who is facing investigations over allegations of money laundering.

The Asset Recovery Agency (ARA) obtained orders allowing it to investigate Kiunjuri’s account on suspicions that he might have received millions of shillings through a kickback scheme involving funds allocated to the National Irrigation Board when he was the CS.

The probe is related to investigations on Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua, another Ruto ally whose accounts have also been frozen over claims that he received Sh5.8 billion suspected to be proceeds of crime and corruption.

ARA claims that Kiunjuri might have received part of the alleged loot from Gachagua through collusion when the MP, through his companies, was awarded multi-million contracts by the National Irrigation Board which was under the Ministry of Agriculture then headed by Kiunjuri.

“ARA is making inquiries into an alleged offence of acquiring proceeds of crime since we have reasonable grounds to believe the bank accounts were used as conduit of money laundering to conceal movement of the illicit funds,” said the agency.

In Gachagua’s case, ARA obtained orders freezing his accounts at Rafiki Microfinance Bank with over Sh200 million over claims of money laundering and corruption.

The agency claimed that they suspected the legislator had received huge sums of money believed to be proceeds of crime through collusion with Nyeri County Government, the Constituency Development Fund and the National Irrigation Board.

But the MP has accused the State of witch-hunt and political persecution, stating that he is being punished for supporting Ruto.

“I have all reasons to believe that freezing of my accounts has nothing to do with any genuine criminal investigations. It is being pursued to settle political scores since the accounts are not secret and have been operational for over eight years,” swore Gachagua in his affidavit.

Waititu, who was a staunch supporter of the DP, was kicked out unceremoniously after being impeached by the county Assembly in addition to being charged of embezzling Sh588 million from the county.

Waititu is on trial for allegedly receiving Sh51 million through kickbacks wired to his companies Saika Two Estate Developers Ltd and Benvenue Delta Hotel when he awarded the multi-million shilling tender for road construction.

Lenolkulal was charged with conspiracy to commit an economic crime by receiving Sh84,695,996 from the county government through his company Oryx Services Station.

Lenolkulal faced other charges of abuse of office by improperly conferring a benefit to himself and engaging in conflict of interest by trading with the county he is heading.

Sonko on the other hand was suspended from office after facing a total of 19 charges in two separate files in which the prosecution claimed he conspired with rogue businessmen and senior county government officials to embezzle over Sh380 million from the county coffers.

Through the chain of secret connection using his proxies, Sonko is said to have received kickbacks into his personal accounts totalling Sh39 million as reward for awarding multi-million shillings contracts to companies that traded with his county government.

Kandara MP Alice Wahome, another staunch supporter of Ruto, is also fighting the Director of Public Prosecution to stop her prosecution over alleged misappropriation of Sh284 million from the late Mbiyu Koinange’s estate.

Wahome and three other lawyers obtained court orders barring the DPP and the Directorate of Criminal Investigations after they claimed that the State was in a hurry to charge them despite false claims by one of the late Koinange’s beneficiary.

Jail terms

Last week, Sirisia MP John Waluke was jailed for a cumulative 62 years and fined close to Sh1 billion for defrauding the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB).

Other who have ran afoul with investigative agencies include MPs Aisha Jumwa (Malindi), Sudi, David Gikaria (Nakuru Town East), governor Sang (Nandi) and Senator Samson Cherargei (Nandi).

Jumwa, who was arrested alongside four others over Ganda Ward by-election chaos that left one person dead, was in March freed on a Sh500,000 cash bail or Sh1 million bond. The case is still on.

Sang was last year charged with malicious damage to property, incitement to violence and abuse of office but denied all three charges and was released on Sh1 million bond or Sh500, 000 cash bail. The case is still pending at the Kisumu Courts.

Cherargei is facing charges of ethnic contempt, violating the National Cohesion and Integration Act, following a speech he made in August in Nandi last year. He deposited Sh300,000 bail after being charged with ethnic contempt and incitement to violence.

He has, however, defended himself saying that the remarks he made concerning support for Deputy President William Ruto’s 2022 bid, which led to his arrest, were misinterpreted.

In January last year, Gikaria was charged with forging land documents and grabbing parcels of land within Nakuru County between August 28 and December 18, 2007.

According to the prosecution, he and accomplices manipulated entries of dates in the green cards of eight blocks of land and replaced the names of seven residents with others.

Gikaria denied all the charges and pleaded for lenient bond terms, claiming the charges were politically instigated and was released on a personal bond of Sh3 million with a surety of the same amount, with the alternative of a cash bail of Sh1 million.

Sudi appeared before the anti-corruption court where he faced three counts of forging academic certificates while seeking clearance from the electoral commission to contest his seat in 2013.

The MP was accused of forging his Diploma in Business Management allegedly issued by the Kenya Institute of Management (KIM) as well as a Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) qualification reportedly issued by Highway High School.

He faced another charge of giving false information to an officer of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC). The court heard that he lied to both the electoral commission and the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission.

Sudi denied the charges and was released on a Sh300,000 cash bail.

While the seven leaders are battling court cases, five nominated Senators are yet to know their fate after disciplinary proceedings were instituted against them after they skipped a Senate Jubilee Parliamentary meeting at State House.

Senators Omanga, Mary Seneta, Victor Prengei, Falhada Iman and Naomi Waqo who are being associated with the Tanga Tanga wing, will know their fate next week Wednesday.

The party’s National Disciplinary Committee Vice-chairperson Wanjiku Nduati has announced that the five will receive their verdict on July 7.

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