Governor Sonko to spend two more days in the cooler
Embattled Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko and several City Hall officials will spend two nights at the Industrial Area Remand Prison after they denied corruption-related charges in a Sh357 million garbage tender case yesterday.
Milimani Anti-Corruption Court Chief Magistrate Douglas Ogoti said he will deliver his ruling on their bail application tomorrow even though one of the defence lawyers, Tom Ojienda, said he was willing to go back to court at 5pm for the ruling.
“Submissions in this case have taken more than five hours since morning. 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 on Wednesday,” ruled Ogoti.
Yesterday, the Governor who had been in police custody since his dramatic arrest on Friday, arrived at the Milimani Law Courts at 7.55am under heavy security. He was held at the court cells until 9.15am when the case started.
Heavily armed security personnel had been deployed around the court with all roads leading to the building sealed off and traffic re-directed to adjacent roads.
The governor had spent three nights in police cells at the EACC Integrity Centre headquarters after his arrest in Voi, Taita Taveta county. He was charged with 16 other suspects.
Donning a combat-style jacket and a black T-shirt, the governor looked on blankly as the prosecutor read out 19 counts which included money laundering, conflict of interest, abuse of office, acquisition of public funds and conspiracy to commit an economic crime.
Sonko is accused of corruptly receiving more than Sh25 million through proxies, including Fredrick Odhiambo, who also denied the charges. The money was allegedly deposited in Sonko’s personal accounts in different banks in different parts of the country.
In the first file, Sonko was charged together with Odhiambo, Anthony Otieno Ombok as well as Webtribe Ltd, and its directors Danson Muchemi, Robert Muriithi and Zablon Onyango, an agent.
Muchemi, Muriithi and Onyango were not in court yesterday and their lawyer Steve Ogolla informed the court that they had presented themselves to EACC offices as directed.
They were jointly accused of embezzling Sh24 million from the City County government over a tender for the supply and implementation of electronic revenue collection and payment system.
They allegedly committed the offence between July 1, 2018 and January 31, 2019.
In the second file, where Sonko is accused of pocketing Sh3 million, he is charged with County Secretary Peter Kariuki, head of supply chain management Patrick Mwangangi and tender committee members Samuel Ndung’u, Edwin Kariuki, Lawrence Mwangi, Preston Miriti and senior clerical officers at the county Wambua Ndaka and Andrew Nyasiego.
Anthony Mwaura and Rose Njeri, who are directors of Hardi Enterprises Ltd and Toddy Civil Engineering Ltd, were also presented in court and denied the charges.
The governor, who was represented by a legal team, led by lawyer Cecil Miller, denied stealing Sh357 million from the county government.
The DPP, through senior State Counsel, Joseph Riungu and James Kihara put a spirited fight to have Sonko denied bail, saying he had escaped prison before.
Kihara told the court that if Sonko was granted bail, he was likely to interfere with investigations or intimidate witnesses, who are junior county officers.
Sonko is a “flamboyant, influential and wealthy public figure with a rowdy and sycophantic following and has on several occasions threatened and demonstrated acts outside the law,” the prosecutor said.
He added that the governor is likely to interfere with witnesses and has incited county executive committee members from recording statements over ongoing investigations and releasing him on bail or bond would jeopardise investigations.
Kihara said Sonko was arrested on Friday in Voi town, while attempting to flee the country, “a clear manifestation that he is a flight risk”.
The governor was also accused of obstructing the police and in the process, injuring a police officer.
The prosecutor cited a case on March 12, 1998 where Sonko was convicted for failing to appear in court over three charges in Mombasa. He was sentenced to pay a fine of Sh500,000 in the first case and Sh200,000 in the second case. In default, he was to serve six months in prison for each case.
Kihara said Sonko escaped from custody after he was admitted at the Coast Provincial General Hospital on April 16, 1998.
Sonko was arrested in Nairobi after a signal was sent from Shimo La Tewa Prison and taken at Kamiti Maximum Prison where he served the reminder of his jail term, the prosecutor told the court.
Kihara said there is evidence that Sonko has a pending criminal case in Mombasa since 2001 when a warrant of arrest was issued against him.
The prosecution sought orders barring Sonko and other officials from accessing their offices pending the hearing and determination of the graft case.
Kihara urged the court to bar the accused from contacting and intimidating witnesses or investigating officers either directly or indirectly. He asked the court to order the accused to deposit their passports in court.
Through his lawyer Miller, Sonko sought to be released on bail saying he needed an urgent chest CT scan and had already been given drugs for pain.
He pleaded with the court to release him on bond, claiming his life was at risk.
The lawyer said Sonko may have suffered rib fractures during his arrest. “He needs medical attention with the possibility of admission.
Sonko did not assault police officers, instead he was the one who was assaulted,” said Miller and urged the court to grant his client bail as there was a possibility Sonko would be rearrested and taken to Voi to face assault charges.
“There is nothing to support the allegation that Sonko has used his position to incite the county executive members from recording statements,” said Miller and dismissed claims Sonko was a flight risk, adding that said the governor was arrested while going about his business.
“Claims on past convictions is a total lie, this is a narrative meant to portray him as such. He has been cleared before by the EACC to run as a Member of Parliament for Makadara, Nairobi Senator and as governor,” said Miller.
In reference to the Shimo La Tewa saga, Miller told the court a document from the Commissioner of Prisons indicates that Sonko was discharged in 2001 on strength of securing bond and appeal being allowed.
In the appeal, Miller said Justice Samuel Oguk quashed the prison term.
The magistrate directed Sonko get treatment in the presence of prison authorities and his physician.
“The prison department to verify whether Sonko needs hospital admission to be done before his physician,” ordered Ogoti.
However, he directed the prosecution to issue summons to those suspects who skipped plea.