Questions for DPP as graft, tax cases dropped

Written by on 13 October 2022

The Cabinet Secretary nominee for Public Service and Gender Aisha Jumwa yesterday became the latest beneficiary of the Director of Public Prosecutions’ (DPP) magnanimity after her case was dropped on the same day that the National Assembly set up a panel that will vet CS nominees.

The move led Kenyans on social media to question the rationale and timing of the reprieve given that nominees facing corruption allegations are likely to face tough questions when they appear for vetting.

Debate gathered storm when DPP Noordin Haji also dropped corruption charges against former Kenya Power managing director Ben Chumo, his successor Ken Tarus and nine others over procurement of Sh400 million worth of transformers that investigators had described as faulty.

On the same day, the DPP also gave a reprieve to Keroche Breweries Director Joseph Karanja — husband of Nakuru Senator Tabitha Karanja — in a Sh14 billion tax dispute with the Kenya Revenue Authority.

Although Haji said that Tabitha would stand trial while letting Joseph off the hook, the issue also stirred debate on a day the DPP appeared to be withdrawing serious cases at the drop of a hat.

 He also indicated that he intended to drop corruption charges against former Samburu governor Moses Lenolkulal, citing lack of evidence, and would have gone ahead had the court not asked him to make a formal application in writing.

Haji has in the past accused the Directorate of Criminal Investigations of filing weak cases in court and warned that he would have no option but terminate them at some point for lack of evidence.

Key members of the Kenya Kwanza Alliance, which took over power on September 13, have also in the past indicated that some of the cases were meant to harass and intimidate supporters of the political formation.

Where the DPP failed to give reasons for withdrawing the cases, it was not clear whether this was motivated by lack of evidence or political motives.

In the past one week, Haji also dropped charges against Agriculture Cabinet Secretary nominee Mithika Linturi, paving way for his vetting alongside his counterpart Jumwa by the National Assembly committee to be led by Speaker Moses Wetang’ula (see separate story).

Yesterday, the DPP withdrew the cases against Chumo, his successor Tarus and nine others under Section 87 (a) of the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) for lack of evidence.

They had been charged in 2018 over Sh400 million worth of transformers that investigators described as “faulty”.

Procurement rules

Among the charges they faced included conspiracy to commit an offence, aiding the commission of a felony, willful failure to comply with procurement laws, conspiracy to defeat justice and fraudulent acquisition of public property.

Others that had been charged alongside Chumo and Tarus included Beatrice Meso, K.P. Mungai, Joshua Mutua, Abubakar Swaleh, Samuel Ndirangu, Stanley Mutwiri, Benson Muriithi, Peter Mwicigi and John Ombui.

The DPP, on March 22, withdrew charges against Muwa Company and its directors, James Njenga Mungai, his wife Grace Wanjira and son, John Anthony Mungai, without giving any reasons. The three were said to be the suppliers of the allegedly substandard transformers. The prosecutor said the DPP withdrew the case against the former KPLC bosses because it was not sustainable.

He said the office of the DPP had previously written several letters to the DCI identifying areas that needed to be clarified by way of further investigations but the DCI did not respond.

At the time, the head of DCI was George Kinoti, who opted to retire and was last week redeployed to the Public Service Commission. His successor is likely to be unveiled tomorrow.

“We wrote letters to the DCI on the 18th October 2021, 27th April 2022, 6th May 2022 and 16th May 2022…

“Upon review of the evidence so far on record and especially the evidence tendered and to be tendered by the remaining  four witnesses, we find that the same are at variance with the charges and counts that the accused persons are facing,” Akula said.

According to him, the Investigating Officer in the case has to date neither submitted his statement nor provided his same to the accused persons as required by law.

In Mombasa, Jumwa received a reprieve ahead of her vetting after the DPP withdrew a Sh19 million corruption case against her, citing section 87 (a) of the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC).

The prosecution — through senior State counsel Alex Akula — informed Mombasa Chief Magistrate Martha Mutuku that he was under instructions to apply for the withdrawal of charges against Jumwa.

“I have instructions to move the court with an application on review of charges and that is specifically on the first accused person,” Akula said.“The final directive is to have her name removed and the case against eight suspects who had been charged alongside Jumwa to proceed.”

Conflict of interest

In Nairobi, magistrate Thomas Nzyuki declined to have former governor Lenolkulal’s Sh84 million corruption case withdrawn orally and directed the DPP to file a formal application.

The DPP had made an oral application to withdraw the case against all the accused persons saying it was premised on a petition made to the office of DPP by Lenolkulal’s lawyer, Nelson Havi.

“He petitioned the office of DPP to review the charges and also correspondence from the county government of Samburu and the Treasury department who say that there were no procurement breaches and no money was lost under the subject in question and that they got value for money for the services they received,” said the prosecution.

  The court was told that Lenolkulal had provided the DPP with the declaration of conflict of interest where he had disclosed that he had an interest with the fuel service station, Oryx, and that he was taking the necessary steps to relinquish his ownership with the said entity.

Finally, in the case against Keroche director Karanja — who was facing a Sh14 billion tax evasion case alongside his wife Tabitha — the DPP explained that the accused was indisposed.

Milimani senior principal magistrate Esther Kimilu concurred with him and granted the application. Medical reports tabled in court by the couple’s lawyer, James Orengo, showed that Karanja was seriously sick and was admitted at the Karen Hospital.

 The hospital later referred him to the UK where he is currently being treated. However, the court directed that Tabitha, who is the Keroche Breweries Managing Director, faces prosecution over the same.

The case will be mentioned on Wednesday for further directions. In the case, Tabitha and Karanja have denied ten counts related to tax evasion amounting to Sh14.5 billion.  Tabitha is out on a Sh10 million bail or an alternative Sh5 million bond.

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