The Anti-Corruption Court has denied Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko permission to travel to the United Arabs Emirates for a UN-Habitat conference on the city's sustainable development.
Milimani Chief Magistrate Douglas Ogoti explained that it was not clear how Sonko got the invitation from office, since he was barred last December over a Sh357 million corruption case.
The court said the governor should only access the officer under the supervision of an investigating officer attached to the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC).
“He needed to explain how he got the access. The court does not know how he got the letter,” the magistrate said, noting questions of the letter's verifiability, hence the need to authenticate it.
Mr Ogoti also noted that the government had not given Sonko clearance to travel to Abu Dhabi and that the prosecution said the trip was for leisure.
The magistrate ruled on Thursday on the governor’s application to have his Kenyan and diplomatic passports and travel documents released by the court so he can travel to the conference next week.
His passports were surrendered to the court on December 11, 2019, in fulfilment of a condition for his release on Sh30 million bond or Sh15 million cash bail.
Upon release, the flamboyant county chief was to seek the court's permission to travel.
Sonko's lawyer George Kithi said he was invited in his capacity as governor to attend the 10th session of the World Urban Forum, which will take place from February 8-13.
“The forum is important to the people of Nairobi as it is a strategic opportunity for multi-stakeholder cooperation in implementation of the New Urban Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals, especially in making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe and resilient and sustainable,” he noted.
Mr Kithi said the city boss had already made bookings and reservations at hotels using his personal finances and resources.
He attached the booking documents, Sonko's temporary address in Abu Dhabi and the telephone numbers of the hotel that would accommodate him.
Further, the governor said he was willing to provide other sureties that the court would impose to ensure his return to Kenya.
Mr Kithi also produced the invitation letter sent to the governor by UN-Habitat's Executive Director Maimunah Mohd Sharif.
The Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) opposed the application on grounds that Sonko, having been barred from office, could not travel to the UAE for official duties.
The prosecution contended that the invitation letter needed verification, questioned the governor’s intention in asking for his travel documents just days to the conference and noted the need for the government's clearance.
“Though the session is sponsored by the UN-Habitat, the accused has made personal reservations and made payments using personal debit cards," the DPP said.
"Therefore he is not travelling for official duties, rather personal luxury, and so should not be granted the requests."