Charged Muthomi, co-accused to spend another night in custody

Wednesday, September 9th, 2020 00:00 |
Tharaka Nithi Governor Muthomi Njuki (right) and co-accused at Milimani Law Courts, yesterday. Photo/PD/CHARLES MATHAI

Embattled Tharaka Nithi Governor Muthomi Njuki spent another night in police cells after denying corruption-related charges in the Sh34 million solid waste incinerator tender saga.

The development came after Milimani Anti-Corruption Chief Magistrate Douglas Ogoti said he would make a ruling on the governor’s application for bail this morning.

“Submissions in this case have taken more than an hour and a half since 11:30 am.

The court will have to consider those submissions and the authorities.

It will not be possible to do so today. I direct that ruling be delivered tomorrow at 10:30 am,” ruled Ogoti.

He ordered all the suspects to be detained at Integrity Centre, Parklands and Kileleshwa Police Stations where they have been held since Monday night after surrendering to Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) detectives.

Yesterday, Muthomi,10 county government officials, directors of companies that allegedly benefitted from the irregular tender, arrived at Milimani Law Courts in two vans under tight security and were immediately locked up in the cells until 11 am when they were brought to court.

They all denied 16 charges ranging from conspiracy to commit an economic crime, conflict of interest, money laundering and failure to comply with the law among others. 

Embezzlement of county funds

The charges relate to the alleged embezzlement of public funds through irregular procurement for the tender of the supply, installation and commissioning of a solid waste incinerator at Tharaka Nithi county.

But as the accused persons took their seats in the dock to follow the court proceedings, reality started dawning on the Governor and his co-accused.

As the court clerk read out the charges, Muthomi listened, gazed at the magistrate and scratched his head, perhaps wondering when and where he had dropped.

Donning a grey suit, a white shirt and maroon tie, the Governor sat pensively as the clerk went through the motions of the case.

 Through their over 10 lawyers, the accused persons put up a spirited fight to have the court release them on reasonable bail terms, promising to comply with all conditions set by the court. 

“Bail should not be a punishment, the purpose of bail is to secure the attendance of the accused in court,” said the defense team led by lawyer Paul Nyamodi.

The DPP through state counsels Wesley Nyamache, Henry Kinyanjui and Hellen Mutera did not oppose the release of the accused persons on bail but asked the court to set out terms that reflect the magnitude of the charges.

“The court should consider the seriousness and gravity of the punishment if found guilty. Given the amount involved of Sh34 million, if found guilty they will be fined Sh 64,276525,”said the prosecution. 

Mutera also asked the court to order the accused persons to deposit their passports with the court.  

The prosecution also sought to have the governor and other county officials barred from accessing the county offices, which it argued, remains a scene of crime.

“We pray the court to grants orders that the accused persons not to leave the jurisdiction of the court without court’s permission,” added Mutera.

She also asked the court to bar the suspects from contacting any witnesses lined up by the state.

The court heard that one of the accused persons, a director of Westomaxx Investment Ltd, Caroline Sheila Wambui was not present as she is admitted in hospital. 

However, her husband  Kenneth Ngai denied the charges including failure to pay over Sh32 million in taxes.

The court heard that the suspects, on January 1, 2018 and October 31, 2018 at Tharaka Nithi county jointly conspired to commit an offence of corruption namely embezzlement of public funds from the county government Sh34,998,500 in relation to tender number TNCG/2018-2019 for the supply, installation and commissioning of an incinerator.

Muthomi was separately charged with knowingly holding a direct interest in the tender for the supply of the Sh34 million incinerator.

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