Ex-PCEA boss fails to settle Sh40m theft case out of court

Thursday January 11 2018

Former PCEA Moderator Rev David Ritho Gathanju (right) and two former employees on the church - Esther Wanjiku (centre) and Peter Mwangi at the Kiambu Law courts on October 18, 2017. PHOTO | ERIC WAINAINA| NMG

Former PCEA Moderator Rev David Ritho Gathanju (right) and two former employees on the church - Esther Wanjiku (centre) and Peter Mwangi at the Kiambu Law courts on October 18, 2017. PHOTO | ERIC WAINAINA| NMG 

By ERIC WAINAINA
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Former Presbyterian Church of East Africa (PCEA) moderator Ritho Gathanju and four former church employees have failed to reach an out-of-court settlement with the church over the theft of Sh40 million.

The failure to reach a deal paves the way for the case to proceed to full hearing.

PCEA has accused the five of stealing Sh39.9 million at the church head office at South C Estate in Nairobi between January 2, 2016, and June 30, 2017.

The church and the five informed the court in November of plans to settle the theft suit outside the court to save the image of the church.

They failed to reach a deal within the Tuesday deadline set by the senior principal magistrate Stella Atambo.

Rev Gathanju’s lawyer Robert Mutitu, a retired High Court judge, yesterday informed the court that the out-of-court talks were yet to start, and indicated his client’s readiness to proceed with the matter that would see the church leadership face off with their ex-boss in the court.

Rev Gathanju, who served the church between 2009 and 2015, James Muiruri, Esther Wanjiku, Peter Mwangi and Stephen Kamau have also been charged with conspiring to commit a felony against the church.

The lawyers for the four and the church’s advocate Kimamo Muchiri said they are ready for the full hearing.

Mr Muchiri insisted the out-of-court talks must take place within the church structures that were not disclosed.

Mr Mutitu reckoned that the church had placed “so many conditions” for the talks, arguing the terms of the were set to frustrate the process. The court hearing starts next Thursday.

Rev Peter Kania Kariuki has been listed as the complainant on behalf of the church, which in October placed a public notice in the local dailies, indicating that the suspects no longer work for the PCEA.

Before the accused pleaded not guilty to the charges in October, their lawyers unsuccessfully asked Ms Atambo to defer the plea and allow the PCEA to arbitrate the matter, warning that it was likely to split the church.