28 February 2013

Kenya: PS Thuita Charged Over Embassy Scandal

Nairobi — Foreign Affairs Permanent Secretary Thuita Mwangi and two ministry officials are now facing charges over the Tokyo embassy scandal.

The PS and Allan Mburu, the Charge d'affaires at the Kenyan Embassy in Tokyo did not however take plea after their lawyers objected, demanding production of materials that formed basis of the charges.

They were released each on a Sh2 million cash bail each by Senior Principal Magistrate Doreen Mulekyo who will on March 8 give directions whether they should plead to the charges.

Lawyer Katwa Kigen also appearing for the PS objected to the manner in which he was arrested saying it was meant to inflict maximum embarrassment to the PS.

The third suspect, Anthony Mwaniki Muchiri, who is Kenya's ambassador to Libya has now been issued with summons to appear in court on March 14.

The three are accused of breaching public trust by approving the purchase of property for the chancery of the Kenyan embassy and ambassador's residence at a cost of 1.75 billion Japanese Yen (Sh1.63bn), while aware that a fair market price could have been obtained had proper procurement procedures been adhered to."

Mwangi and Mburu face two other counts of abuse of office and failure to comply with the law and procedures relating to procurement.

Mwangi's objection to taking of plea was presented by four lawyers led by Evans Monari, who insisted that the matter had been subjected to various investigations by a parliamentary committee and the Treasury and that the PS needed all documentations that informed the charge presented.

Monari told the anti-corruption court that they will need to study and analyse all the investigation reports to enable their client take plea and write a precautionary statement.

"The particulars of this case relate to events of January and October 2009; there have been inquiries both at ministerial, parliamentary and at the level of the Ethics and Anti Corruption Commission (EACC). Reports have been made, statements have been taken and documents collected and we want those made available to us," Monari said seeking that the PS be allowed to take plea on March 14.

They also want to file an application before the High Court to seek constitutional interpretation on when a fair trial starts as they felt that the their client should have had the benefit of knowing what the basis of the charge was.

Lawyer Katwa Kigen also appearing for the PS objected to the manner in which he was arrested saying it was meant to inflict maximum embarrassment to the PS.

He claimed that the EACC was not interested in justice in the matter but wanted to be seen as working following allegations that the commission alerted the media to cover Mwangi's arrest.

Senior Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions Kioko Kamula argued that there was nothing stopping the accused from taking plea as charges were not defective and met the threshold expected as required by Section 134 of the Criminal Procedure Code.

He insisted that there was nothing wrong in the manner Mwangi and Mburu were arrested saying that they did not deserve to be notified as the matter had been known to them since 2009.

The PS was taken into custody on Wednesday evening by anti-corruption detectives and questioned at the Integrity Centre over the Tokyo Embassy scandal before he was locked up.

The Tokyo scandal emerged in 2010 after a probe revealed that officials allegedly chose to buy the property from a private seller instead of the Japanese government, which had offered a lower price.

As a parliamentary committee investigation was launched to look into it, Mwangi and the then Foreign Affairs Minister Moses Wetangula stepped down for 10 months and were later reinstated.


Lordrick is a graduate of the University of Nairobi with a bachelor's degree in broadcast journalism. He is passionate about political and governance issues. He also takes keen interest in human rights matters, justice and is fond of sports.


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