Kenya: Rigathi Gachagua Faces Up to 72 Years in Prison Over Graft Charges

Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua, once a close ally of President Uhuru Kenyatta, is staring at a jail term of up to 72 years should the State prove the six corruption charges leveled against him.

In charges drafted by the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) and approved by the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, the former powerful administrator could also face a fine of at least Sh30 million.

Mr Gachagua is accused of acquiring Sh7.3 billion from proceeds of crime between 2013 and 2020.

The counts include conspiracy to commit an offence of corruption, fraudulent acquisition of public property, conflict of interest, money laundering and acquisition of proceeds of crime.

The prosecution has pegged the first three charges in the Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes (Aceca) Act (2003), where Mr Gachagua could face a maximum of 10 years in jail for each count.

The other three are premised on Proceeds of Crime and Anti-Money Laundering Act (2009), where he could face a total of 42 years.

The State has preferred three charges under this Act; two on money laundering and one on acquisition of proceeds of crime.

Section 16(1)(a) of the Act states that a person convicted for any of the offences leveled against Mr Gachagua is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 14 years, or a fine not exceeding Sh5 million.

It also recommends an alternative penalty for a fine of the amount of the value of the property involved in the offence, whichever is higher, or both.

Section 48 (1) of Aceca states that a person convicted of an offence of conspiracy to defraud is liable to a fine not exceeding Sh1 million or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years, or to both.

If as a result of the conspiracy, the person received a quantifiable benefit or any other person suffered a quantifiable loss, he or she is liable to an additional mandatory fine equal to two times the amount of the benefit or loss suffered. If the offence resulted in both a benefit and loss, the mandatory fine is equal to two times the sum of the amount of the benefit and the amount of the loss.

The penalty prescribed in Section 48 (1) also applies to other offences, such as conflict of interest and fraudulent acquisition of public property.

Mr Gachagua's defence team led by lawyer Kioko Kilukumi told the court that the MP was arrested at 3am on Friday by a squad of 20 officers, who later violated his rights by failing to avail him in court within 24 hours as required by law.

He joins the long list of politicians and public officers fighting graft charges. Sirisia MP John Waluke was last year sentenced for 67 years in prison after being convicted for the Sh314 million shady maize dealings at the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB).

Mr Waluke's business associate, Grace Wakhungu, was handed 69 years. The two were also given an option of paying a cumulative fine amounting to Sh2.1 billion. They appealed.

Mr Gachagua is charged alongside nine others, who are yet to be arrested, though they have since been summoned by the anti-corruption court at Milimani on August 3.

They include Mathira CDF manager William Mwangi Wahome, who is also chairman of Tana Water Works Development Agency (TWWDA), Ann Nduta Ruo, Jullianne Jahenda Makaa and Samuel Murimi Ireri.

Others are Grace Wambui Kariuki, Lawrence Kimaru, Irene Wambui Ndigiriri, David Reuben Nyangi Nguru and Rapid Medical Supplies Ltd.

Together with Gachagua, they are jointly charged with conspiracy to commit an offence of corruption by defrauding Nyeri County government of Sh27.4 million purportedly for supply of dialysis machines to the Nyeri Provincial General Hospital. They allegedly committed the offence between May 2015 and December 2016.

Mr Nguru, Rapid Medical Supplies Ltd and the MP faced a separate charge of fraudulent acquisition of public property. Chief magistrate Lawrence Mugambi heard that on December 29, 2014, they received Sh6 million from the county government, being part of the payment for the supply of the dialysis machines.

In regard to money laundering, the State alleges that between January 2015 and June 2019, Mr Gachagua, with intent to unlawfully dispose monies from Bungoma county government, indirectly received Sh104.8 million and engaged in a movement to conceal movement of the said sum.

The court heard that between September 2015 and September 2016, he allegedly laundered Sh7.5 million received from Kwale county government.

On acquisition of proceeds of crime, the State alleges that between 2013 and 2020, the MP fraudulently acquired Sh7.3 billion through his three bank accounts at Rafiki Microfinance Bank.

On conflict of interest, the court heard that the Mr Gachagua reportedly acquired indirect private interest in a contract for construction of Njathaini primary school funded by the Mathira CDF.

The State claims that the contract was awarded to Skytop Agencies, a company owned by Julianne Jahenda Makaa, who is his close associate. They allegedly committed the offence between October 2018 and January 2019.

Mr Gachagua was released on a cash bail of Sh12 million or a bond of Sh25 million with his lawyers protesting that it was too hefty. He was also told to surrender his passport in court.

He chose to pay the cash bail.

Murang'a Senator Irungu Kang'ata, South Mugirango MP Silvanus Osoro and Kandara's Alice Wahome said the DCI used the huge financial figures in Mr Gachagua's charge sheets to ensure the court imposes high bail terms.

"Under article 49 of the constitution, every accused person is presumed innocent until proven guilty and right to be released on bond. The bond terms granted to Mr Gachagua are too high while the tenets of bail and bond is to secure the court attendance of the accused person," said Dr Kang'ata.

The other lawyers representing Mr Gachagua are Gladys Sholei, Kipchumba Murkomen, Gibson Kimani, Wycliffe Nyambuto, Agnes Kibiru and Paul Gacheru.

Additional reporting by Richard Munguti

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