Jersey asks AG to speed up Gichuru’s case as money laundering web revealed

The funds were usually disguised as consultancy fees or commissions charged to the companies.

Friday March 11 2016

Former Cabinet minister Chris Okemo at a past meeting. Mr Okemo has been named as a beneficiary of bribes, according to court papers, and is also wanted in Jersey on money laundering and fraud charges. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP.

Former Cabinet minister Chris Okemo at a past meeting. Mr Okemo has been named as a beneficiary of bribes, according to court papers, and is also wanted in Jersey on money laundering and fraud charges. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP. 

By PETER LEFTIE
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Authorities in the State of Jersey have asked Kenya to speed up extradition proceedings against former Energy minister Chris Okemo and ex-KPLC managing director Samuel Gichuru.

The two are expected to face money laundering charges over irregular payments they received to facilitate contracts between the Kenya Government and British companies.

Jersey also wants Kenya to help it to develop an asset-sharing framework to enable it to repatriate Sh520 million stashed away by Mr Okemo and Mr Gichuru.

In a letter to Attorney-General Githu Muigai, his counterpart in Jersey, Mr Robert MacRae, says he is increasingly confident that Mr Gichuru and Mr Okemo will be convicted.

“I have in the circumstances, three reasons for writing to you. Firstly, to let you know as I have, the successful outcome of the proceedings against the company controlled by Mr Gichuru.

Secondly, to ask for an update as to the extradition proceedings. We can now be increasingly confident that Mr Gichuru and Mr Okemo will, when extradited to Jersey, be convicted,” says Mr MacRae in the letter dated February 25.

The request is bound to pile pressure on Kenyan courts to expedite the extradition case facing Mr Okemo and Mr Gichuru for laundering millions, possibly billions of shillings, between 1999 and 2001.

It follows a ruling by the Royal Court of Jersey ordering the seizure of the millions hidden in the offshore account belonging to Mr Gichuru’s company, Windward Trading Ltd, after it pleaded guilty to four counts of money laundering.

The company, according to court records, admitted laundering proceeds of crime between July 29, 1999 and October 19, 2001, when Mr Gichuru was the Kenya Power and Lighting Company MD and Mr Okemo was the Energy minister in the Moi administration.

(Read: Jersey writes to Kenya over Gichuru millions)

The company was created in the 1980s by Mr Gichuru allegedly to be used to receive kickbacks for the award of tenders to foreign firms during his tenure at Kenya Power.

GUILTY
The funds were usually disguised as consultancy fees or commissions charged to the companies.

Mr Okemo has also been named as a beneficiary of bribes, according to court papers, and is also wanted in Jersey on money laundering and fraud charges.

In his request, Mr MacRae says the fact that Windward pleaded guilty to money laundering is sufficient for the confiscation of the entire amount of the stolen money.

“Thirdly, it is now appropriate for discussions to begin in relation to an Asset Sharing Agreement between Jersey and Kenya in relation to the funds which are confiscated.

“As you can imagine, there have been substantial prosecution costs which have been incurred over the last decade in bringing this case to Court and (subject to the extradition proceedings) a successful conclusion,” he states.

“Nonetheless, it is important that the majority of the funds confiscated are returned so that they can benefit the people of Kenya. This is a matter that can now be progressed, with the assistance of the Governments of Jersey and Kenya,” he concludes.

WIFE'S REVELATION

After the ruling, Mr MacRae had promised to pile pressure on Kenyan authorities to have Mr Okemo and Mr Gichuru extradited to Jersey to face justice.

“This is a very important case demonstrating Jersey’s commitment to combating money-laundering and international corruption,” he said at the time.

Mr Okemo and Mr Gichuru have been fighting legal battles in Kenya to stop their extradition since they were indicted by authorities in Jersey in July 2011.

Last November, the High Court in Kenya ordered that they be extradited but they successfully appealed the decision and a temporary order was issued last month for them to stay until the matter is determined.

Mr Gichuru and Mr Okemo face 53 counts.

Details of the money were exposed when Mr Gichuru’s wife filed court papers during proceedings for divorce.

His wife, now deceased, claimed an estimated Sh1 billion was stashed abroad.

Details from the court showed how the two officials milked companies bidding to get contracts with Kenya Power.

Last month, the company pleaded guilty to four counts of money laundering and the Court of Jersey imposed a confiscation order of £281,897.40 and $540,330.69 equivalent to the total assets of the company.

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