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Noordin Haji to advertise for more lawyers in graft war

Wednesday December 5 2018

By SAM KIPLAGAT
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By BRIAN WASUNA
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Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Noordin Haji has invited more lawyers to join his panel of private counsel offering his office legal services, as he seeks to secure convictions against suspects in corruption and other serious crimes.

Mr Haji on Wednesday announced that he will advertise a fresh tender for legal services, after most of the 19 bids placed in October failed to meet his office’s expectations.

He had earlier said 19 lawyers applied for the legal services tender. On Wednesday, he said 15 of them were considered, but the “responses were not as expected”.

The DPP on Tuesday hired London-based Queen’s Counsel Khawar Qureshi to help prosecute Deputy Chief Justice Philomena Mwilu, who is facing abuse of office, forgery and tax-evasion charges.

Prof Qureshi’s assignment starts tomorrow, as he leads State prosecutors in a High Court petition Justice Mwilu filed to stop her prosecution.

EXPERT

Prof Qureshi was admitted as an advocate in 1990. He has represented and advised the UK government on civil matters.

In 1993, he became the youngest ever lawyer to appear before the International Court of Justice when he represented Bosnia in a genocide case against Yugoslavia.

Prof Qureshi also represented India in an arbitration case against the US in 2004.

Enron, an American energy firm that had been operating a power plant in Maharashtra in India since the 1990s, was closed down by the Indian government, which maintained it could not sustain construction of the facility or afford electricity prices.

On Wednesday, Mr Haji also announced that he had prequalified one of his predecessors — Philip Murgor — alongside former Mombasa Mayor Taib Ali Taib and Mr James Kihara to his list of private practitioners that will be retained to help prosecute high-profile cases.

DISGRUNTLED

But Mr Haji’s decision has rubbed some senior legal practitioners the wrong way, as some have questioned why he overlooked local lawyers in the process.

Public policy expert Waikwa Wanyoike, who has practised law in Kenya and Canada, said Mr Haji has not explained why he single-sourced Prof Qureshi.

“The process was not transparent. The DPP did not tell us what special circumstances warranted single sourcing. Public records by Prof Qureshi disclose that he is an expert on commercial and international law litigation.

"There is nothing to show he has any meaningful expertise on criminal prosecutions or prosecution of complex economic crimes,” Mr Wanyoike said.

Human rights lawyer and activist Harun Ndubi said Mr Haji should have focused on getting tight evidence from investigators, which Mr Haji’s office can use to secure convictions.

“I think it is an insult to the legal system because there are over 15,000 lawyers and some of them would have prosecuted these matters,” Mr Ndubi said.

But the Law Society of Kenya (LSK) said Mr Haji has not breached any law in single-sourcing Prof Qureshi as the Constitution gives him the power to decide which lawyer to pick for any given case.

STRATEGIC

LSK President Allen Gichuhi told the Nation that Mr Haji’s decision does not mean Kenyan lawyers cannot do the job, but that the DPP is seeking to avoid any conflict of interest that may arise from picking a local practitioner.

“For now let’s deal with this case (Justice Mwilu’s). It is not an indictment that there are no competent lawyers in Kenya. This is a unique case,” Mr Gichuhi said.

Mr Murgor said: “I don’t know Prof Qureshi, but he has an impressive resume and has done some criminal matters at the ICC. His experience will come in handy in determining how to approach graft cases.”