Kenya: Heavy Bails for Suspects in Kerio Dams Case

Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich (right) and his Principal Secretary Kamau Thugge at a Milimani court in Nairobi on July 23, 2019.

Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich and the PS Kamau Thugge were Tuesday ordered to deposit Sh15 million cash bail each to secure their release after denying multiple charges relating to the multibillion-shilling scandal in the construction of the Arror and Kimwarer dams.

By last evening, their lawyers and assistants were shuffling between the court and the Kenya Commercial Bank, Milimani branch, situated at the same court building. Those accused alongside them had been taken to the Industrial Area remand prison by 6.30pm.

CHARGES

Mr Rotich and Dr Thugge, together with PS Susan Koech of the Ministry of East African Community, denied charges of conspiracy to commit an economic crime, improperly conferring a benefit, abuse of office, committing an offence of financial misconduct, engaging in a project without prior planning and failing to comply with rules and regulations relating to the management of public finances.

The officers have been suspended, even though State House remained mum for the second day on who will replace them as the case begins.

Dr Koech was ordered to deposit Sh6 million cash bail to secure her release.

Chief Magistrate Douglas Ogoti said the Treasury building, where Mr Rotich and Dr Thugge worked, was still a crime scene, and neither of them should set foot there unless accompanied by the investigating officer.

The court also warned the accused against contacting any prosecution witness or tampering with evidence or else their bail terms will be cancelled.

The accused were also required to deposit their passports and other travel documents in court as condition for their release.

DAMS PROJECTS

Former Kerio Valley Development Authority (KVDA) MD David Kimosop, Kennedy Nyachiro, Jackson Kinyanjui, Titus Muriithi, Paulo Porcelli, CMC Di Ravenna-Itinera JV and CMC Di Ravenna- Itinera JV Kenya branch are accused of jointly conspiring to defraud the government of Sh27,740,760,550 between December 17, 2014, and September 27, 2018.

Mr Rotich and Dr Thugge were accused of entering into a commercial loan agreement disguising it as a government-to-government loan guaranteed by the Italian government.

Mr Porcelli, CMC Di Ravenna-Itinera JV and CMC Di Ravenna-Itinera JV Kenya branch, who were not in court, are alleged to have fraudulently acquired billions of shillings from the government.

The prosecution divided the files into four, with Arror and Kimwarer dams projects in separate files while tender officials from KVDA and National Environment Management Authority (Nema) officers were placed in separate files.

The court heard that they engaged in a project for the construction of the two dams without prior planning. They all denied the charges. Mr Wakhungu was granted Sh750,000 cash bail to secure his release while Mr Kimosop and other senior officials from KVDA were ordered to deposit Sh12 million cash bail.

COURT SESSIONS

Through their lawyers, the suspects pleaded with the court to grant them bail, saying they would faithfully attend court sessions.

Lawyers Kioko Kilukumi, Kipchumba Murkomen and Philip Nyachoti argued that the offences were bailable, and that there was nothing compelling to deny them bail.

Arguing for Mr Rotich’s release, Mr Kilukumi said the CS had fully co-operated with the investigators and visited the Directorate of Criminal Investigations offices seven times. "He has done everything that a suspect can do to help the investigators,” he added.

In Dr Thugge’s, Mr Kilukumi said, the PS was surprised to be arrested since he had not been notified that he was being investigated.

Meanwhile, Dr Koech said she was on her way to the airport when she got news of the orders for her arrest. The lawyer said she cancelled her trip to South Africa.

MEAGRE PAY

Mr Murkomen, who is also Elgeyo-Marakwet senator, pleaded with the court to set reasonable bail terms for the accused, bearing in mind that “most Kerio Valley Development Authority employees are very junior staff earning meagre pay”.

In response, the prosecution, led by Mr Taib Ali Taib, said they were not opposed to bail as long as the accused surrender their travel documents, stay away from their offices and do not approach any of the witnesses or tamper with evidence.

Several suspects who were not in court were ordered to report to the DCI on Friday, or face arrest.

The case will be mentioned on August 8.

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