Toeing the line?

Kenya: Public prosecutor under pressure over withdrawal of high profile graft cases

By Victor Abuso

Posted on October 18, 2022 15:51

Kenya’s Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji speaks during a Reuters interview at his office in Nairobi
Kenya’s Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Noordin Haji speaks during a Reuters interview at his office in Nairobi, Kenya July 23, 2019. REUTERS/Stringer – RC195FFE9E40

Kenya’s Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Noordin Haji is under pressure to explain the reasons behind withdrawing high-profile corruption cases, namely individuals linked to President William Ruto, including a Cabinet Minister he recently picked to form his cabinet.

Among the cases dropped is Ruto’s ally Aisha Jumwa, accused of being involved in a $157,000 corruption scandal.

Jumwa, who has been nominated minister for public service docket, had been charged over the embezzlement of the Constituency Development Fund when she served as Malindi Member of Parliament.

Before his case was dropped, the DPP had lined up 117 witnesses to testify against Jumwa.

Impunity reloaded? but see no evil, hear no evil.”

When asked about the allegations against her during her vetting as Minister, Jumwa said the allegations were politically motivated and believes it was the reason her case was withdrawn for lack of evidence.

“I’m happy that the case has been dropped, it was politically motivated,” she told the Parliamentary vetting committee.

Another $3.3 million corruption case against Ben Chumo, a former managing director of state electricity provider firm Kenya Power was also dropped.

In this case, the Prosecutor told the court that he was not willing to proceed with the charges because the police had failed to conduct proper investigations to indict the accused who has been on trial since 2018.

 Chumo hails from Ruto’s home region of Rift Valley.

Another Ruto ally, Mithika Linturi who has been nominated as Agriculture Minister, had been accused of sexual assault after the two agreed to settle the matter outside court.

However, in a surprising move, Sirisia MP John Waluke, from Raila Odinga’s Azimio la Umoja turf, was recently jailed for 67 years, with an alternative fine of KSh1 billion after being found guilty of defrauding the National Cereals and Produce Board of KSh297 million.

Cases on hold

A few days after being sworn in as Deputy President, Rigathi Gachagua’s corruption case along with nine others –  after he was charged in 2021 for fraudulently acquiring more than KSh7.3 billion ($62.8 million) – was abruptly halted and is now under review.

I’m happy that the case has been dropped, it was politically motivated.”

Gachagua has been charged with fraudulently acquiring public funds for the supply of dialysis machines in a public hospital, but he has also been accused of money laundering.

The Deputy President, who denies the charges against him, has always claimed the case was politically instigated to punish him for supporting Ruto’s presidency during the campaign period.

Trial proceeding, or not

The fate of Gachagua’s case is now unclear after the anti-corruption court recently gave the prosecutors three weeks to review before giving directions on whether the trial will proceed.

In another surprising move, the prosecution agency is also facing questions after it emerged that the process of extraditing former Kenya Power and Lighting Company Director Samuel Gichuru to the United Kingdom for face trial over corruption has been halted.

The development leaves his co-accused, the former finance minister Chris Okemo, to face the charges alone. They both risk a jail term of up to 14 years each in the UK on theft and money laundering charges.

Is it a political move?

Kevin Ochol, a Nairobi-based political analyst, tells The Africa Report that while withdrawing corruption cases looks suspect, the bad working relations between the DPP and former Directorate of Criminal Investigations head George Kinoti who resigned contributed to the problem.

“Their differences have come out now to undermine the corruption cases,” says Ochol.

He adds that the act of withdrawing the cases serves as a message to the public: Ruto’s allies were politically targeted and the new administration is now vindicating them.

Other corruption cases in court

  • Daniel Manduku, Member of Parliament, elected on Azimio la Umoja Coalition: Former Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) Managing Director is facing a court case over irregular procurement amounting to KSh244 million.
  • Danson Mungatana, elected Senator in Kenya Kwanza Coalition: Charged with conspiracy to commit an economic crime involving electronic money transfer from Kilifi county.
  • Allan Chesang, elected Senator in Kenya Kwanza Coalition: Charged in 2018 over a fake laptop tender of KSh181 million at the office of the then Deputy President Ruto.

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