Sonko charged afresh, witnesses in state protection

By Nancy Gitonga On Tue, 18 Feb, 2020 17:09 | 3 mins read
A bid to re-arrest Sonko after his release on bail by the court on Wednesday, was scuttled by the intervention of a senior Govt. official. [PHOTO | K24 DIGITAL]
Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko. PHOTO | K24 DIGITAL

Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko and three others were on Tuesday charged afresh before the anti-corruption court over a Sh 14.1 million tender for the hire of heavy equipment.

Mr. Sonko, Mr. Fredrick Odhiambo alias Fred Oyugi -T/A Yiro Enterprises ROG Security Limited together with its director Mr. Antony Otieno Ombok alias Jamal appeared before Nairobi Chief Magistrate Douglas Ogoti.

The four denied the fresh charges levelled against them after the prosecution amended some particulars in the charge sheet.

The suspects denied charges of conspiracy to commit an economic crime, conflict of interest, Money Laundering and acquisition of proceeds of crime.

Mr. Sonko is accused of having a conflict of interest by acquiring an indirect private interest in a contract connected with a public body on the hiring of heavy equipment by the county government.

The tender was issued to Yiro Enterprises. The governor is alleged to have received Sh8.4 million through his five accounts at Equity Bank from Mr. Odhiambo trading as Yiro Enterprises through Rog Security Limited.

The prosecution alleged that Mr. Sonko, his partner Odhiambo and his communication adviser Ombok on diverse dates between December 27 and 28, 2018 at Nairobi County jointly and knowingly conspired to commit an offense of corruption by dealing with suspected property in the sum of Sh 14.1 million.

The court also heard that on the same date and place, the accused persons with intent to dispose unlawfully of monies received as a benefit in respect to the contract of hire of heavy equipment jointly engaged in a transaction to conceal the Sh14.1 million whilst having reason to believe that the said monies were proceeds of crime.

The magistrate ordered the four accused persons to remain on earlier bond terms pending the hearing and determination of the matter.

At the same time during the pretrial conference of Mr. Sonko’s Sh357 million case, the prosecution informed the court that they have not supplied all the evidence documents they intend to rely on during the trial.

The prosecution informed the court they have failed to comply with the order for compliance since they misunderstood the court order to have them supply the evidence count by count facing the accused persons.

The court was informed that the state has since supplied Mr. Sonko with two boxes of the documents they intend to use in the case and sought more time to supply all the documents.

Witness protection

Further, the prosecution said that the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) has since placed some of the key witnesses expected to testify against Sonko and 17 other under witness protection.

“Some of our key witnesses who are facing potential risk or intimidation because of their co-operation in the matter are under the Witness Protection Agency (WPA) and we intend to use pseudo names in their statements and will give evidence in a closed-door session,” said the prosecution.

Further, the prosecution said that “We have not served the witness statements to the defence because of the order placing some witnesses under protection. We are working with the Witness Protection Agency.”

This is after last week in their application EACC was allowed by the High Court some witnesses in the case testify under protection due to the sensitivity of the matter.

Files safeguarded

The anti-corruption watchdog added that owing to the sensitivity of the trial, the case file has also since been placed under lock and key for its safety.

The key witnesses are under the WPA, a state body established under the Witness Protection Act to safeguard persons with important information and who are facing potential risk or intimidation because of their co-operation.

But the defence team lead by Sonko lawyers Cecil Miller and George Kithi vehemently objected the move to have some key witnesses put under witness protection, saying that function is reserved for the High Court.

Further, the governor’s lawyers accused EACC and the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) of failing to make full disclosure of documentary evidence as required in principles of a fair trial.

Sonko’s team also protested the State’s noncompliance with court orders issued on January 27, 2020, directing that the accused be supplied with witness statements before the pretrial date.

The defence legal team further said EACC and the Office Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) had not furnished it with the case investigations diary.

They urged that the court give the state one more last chance to furnish them all the evidence material before the next pretrial scheduled for February 26.

But the magistrate gave the prosecution the last adjournment to make full disclosure saying that the accused persons have a right to a fair and expeditious trial.

Mr. Ogoti further directed that the inventory should be paginated and have a list of contents and index for the documents.

He also told the prosecution officers too to furnish the defence with the investigations diary.

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