Kenya: Haji Wants Suspects Named in Dams Scam Kicked Out of Office

Henry Rotich (right), Kamau Thugge and Susan Koech at court

Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Noordin Haji has written to the Head of Public Service ordering the suspension of government officials facing prosecution over the multibillion-shilling Kimwarer and Arror dams scandal in which officials conspired to steal over Sh17 billion.

Mr Haji, who said the move will signify the renewed fight against corruption, added that more charges will be brought as investigations continue locally and abroad.

"Individuals already found to have played a part in the scandal will have to leave office immediately," Mr Haji told the Nation. "We are continuing with the investigations with the help of investigative agencies from Italy and the United Kingdom, which will result in more charges."

On Monday, the DPP ordered the prosecution of 28 individuals, among them officials from the National Treasury, Ministry of East Africa Community, National Environment Management Authority, Kerio Valley Development Authority and Inspectorate of State Corporations.

HIGH DRAMA

And, as expected, it was a moment of high drama as the DCI executed the arrest order against the high-profile suspects. It had taken the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) eight months of investigations and it was assumed some of the suspects knew what was coming their way.

Still, not all of them agreed to go down easily. By last evening, seven of the 28 suspects were already in custody being processed for presentation in court this morning. The rest were still on the run, hoping to either show up in court without spending a cold night in the cells or avoid facing justice altogether, an option the DCI said was not on the table.

Those who spent the night in custody are Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich, his PS Kamau Thugge, East African Community PS Susan Jemtai Koech, Nema boss Geoffrey Wahungu, KVDA tender committee members Francis Kipkech, Patrick Kiptoo and David Juma Onyango as well as Charity Muui, a member of the ad hoc financial evaluation committee.

It emerged that detectives had identified the key suspects and trailed them from morning and lay in wait as Mr Haji concluded his press conference before pouncing. Immediately after the DPP started reading the list of suspects, about a dozen detectives from the DCI started making their way to the 14th floor of the Treasury building, where CS Rotich and PS Thugge work.

The two had arrived at work two hours before, at around 8am, and proceeded to their offices with little inkling of what was coming to them. It is around this time that, on the other side of town, DCI George Kinoti hurriedly left for Harambee House, leaving visitors to his office in the waiting room.

TENSE MOMENTS

There were some tense moments at the Treasury building when bodyguards tried to prevent officers from arresting Mr Thugge as TV screens in the wing he operates from beamed the breaking news.

Meanwhile, Mr Rotich, who had locked himself in his office, was making phone calls.

The CS's secretary and bodyguards, who were following the events on TV, told the officers that the CS was on the phone and asked them to wait. According to our sources, the officers flatly refused and threatened to force their way in. Not amused by what they considered insolence from their colleagues, the bodyguards joined the fray and took their position at the door leading to the Mr Rotich's office.

A bitter exchange of words ensued. It is not clear what the two sides said to each other. But the commotion was loud enough to force the besieged CS to step out just in time after his bodyguards pulled out their guns. Once out of the office, the CS gave in. East African Community PS Jemutai Koech was arrested as she made her way to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, ready to fly out on official duty. Mr Wahungu was arrested at his home in Rukungi estate in Chuka, Tharaka-Nithi County, and driven to DCI headquarters.

The four were joined by their lawyers in the boardroom of the Serious Crimes Unit before being summoned one by one to write a cautionary statement and be informed of their charges. Elgeyo-Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen and lawyer Katwa Kigen were seen moving from office to office at the DCI trying to collect information about their client, Mr Rotich.

CORRUPTION

Mr Murkomen claimed that the arrests were a mere public relations stunt by a government that "wants to be seen as fighting corruption".

"This was not about the fight against corruption but PR stunts to demonstrate that Kenya is serious in the war against corruption," he claimed.

But, as Mr Murkomen chest-thumped, his client cut a desolate figure as he sat crestfallen inside the offices of the Serious Crimes Unit. His aides at some point brought him and Mr Thugge lunch before retreating to the parking lot hoping they would take their boss home in the evening.

That did not happen, as all the suspects were whisked away from the DCI headquarters shortly before 7pm and into police custody.

In Eldoret, sleuths stormed the KVDA offices and pounced on Mr Kipkech and tender committee member David Juma Onyango and clerk Charity Muui minutes after Mr Haji had ordered their arrests. They were immediately driven to Nairobi to join the rest of the suspects.

Reporting by Nyambega Gisesa, Mary Wambui, Vincent Achuka and Barbabas Bii

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