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Bosco Gichana’s Tanzania prison drama continues

Sunday November 5 2017

Don Bosco Gichana

Don Bosco Gichana (left) in a Tanzanian court during a past hearing. The high-flying Mr Gichana was first arrested on March 29, 2013. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

PETER LEFTIE
By PETER LEFTIE
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For flamboyant businessman and political activist Don Bosco Gichana, last Tuesday’s events at an Arusha court fall into the now too familiar cases of so near yet so far.

It is a pattern he has come to get accustomed to during his four year incarceration in Tanzanian jails.

On that day, Mr Gichana and his co-accused including prominent Arusha lawyer Median Mwale, Mr Boniface Mwimbwa and Mr Elias Ndejembi were acquitted by Arusha high court judge David Mrango, following an application by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) who had entered a nolle prosequi (a formal notice of abandonment by a plaintiff or prosecutor of all or part of a suit or action) in a case in which they are charged with money laundering.

REARRESTED
Used to being acquitted only to be re-arrested outside the court’s precincts, Mr Gichana and his co-accused were not taking any chances this time round.

They were determined to evade any attempts to re-arrest them.

“We had already packed his belongings ready to take off to Kenya immediately he was set free,” a relative who accompanied Mr Gichana to the court said.

According to media reports, Mr Ndejembi was the first to be arrested as he walked out of the courtroom in the company of his wife.

DETENTION
Seeing what had befallen their co-accused, Mr Gichana, Mr Mwale and Mr Mwimbwa took to their heels, managed to scale the perimeter wall but were arrested a few meters away.

Gichana was arrested outside the Mt Meru hotel, almost 300 meters from the court.

The following day, they were arraigned before a lower court and charged with the same offences, marking the start of what promises to be another round of prosecutions.

Last Tuesday’s was not the first time Mr Gichana, 40, and his co-accused were being subjected to this ordeal.

The high-flying Mr Gichana was first arrested on March 29, 2013 when he went to Tanzania to visit Mr Mwale, who had been in detention since August 2011 over various charges, among them money laundering, which is a non-bailable offence.

BOSCO CHARGED
He was arrested at the Namanga Border point as they made their way back to Kenya after visiting Mwale at the Arusha Central Prison.

“I was booked at Tanzania’s Namanga Police Post where I spent three nights without being informed of any charges or reason for my arrest.

"I was also not allowed to inform anyone of my arrest," he told Sunday Nation in a past interview.

He was first arraigned at Kisutu Resident Magistrate’s Court on April 10, 2013 charged with conspiracy to commit an offence of money laundering, and money laundering itself.

The offence allegedly took place in Nairobi, Arusha and Dar es Salaam.

On October 11, 2013, he was released and re-arrested immediately.

TREASURY CHEQUES
He was later transferred to Arusha to face trial for allegedly transmitting US Treasury cheques to Arusha.

From October 15, 2013 to December 2014 the prosecution kept saying the investigations were not complete.

"The presiding magistrate threatened to release us — even if he had no jurisdiction.

“In early December 2014, they declared investigations were complete but the DPP needed time to go through the files and make a decision," Mr Gichana said.

PRE-TRIAL MEETING
The preliminary hearing was done late February 2015, at a High Court session in Monduli, Arusha, before Lady Justice Fatuma Masengi.

Trial was scheduled for April 2015 but this was not to be as the Judiciary required video link facility, which it said was too expensive.

“But in mid-October 2015 we were told that the funds were now available, and got summons for trial, which was scheduled to start from mid-November to December,” he explained.

A week prior to commencement of the trial, a pre-trial meeting was held between Mr Gichana’s lawyers, state attorneys and Justice Gadi Mjemmasala, the presiding judge.

The prosecution suddenly changed their story and said the witnesses would not need a video link after all, but would come in person.

INVESTIGATIONS
In a subsequent meeting the prosecution was asked if they had any other issues and they said there was none.

Come the trial date and the judge allowed the nolle prosequi to be entered.

And we were released only to be rearrested immediately and taken to the Arusha Central Prison to be charged afresh at a lower court.

The case has witnessed endless adjournments over claims that investigations are incomplete, frequent amendments of charge sheets by adding new counts, new persons enjoined every year and non-appearance without notice by prosecuting State attorneys on scheduled dates.

RAILA'S HAMMER

It is not for nothing that Mr Gichana’s case has drawn more than cursory interest from Kenya’s political and business elite.

Mr Gichana first hit headlines in the runup to the 2007 General Election when he imported the famous Red Hummer and donated it to ODM leader Raila Odinga for his campaigns.

His dalliance with Mr Odinga and other ODM luminaries including Deputy President William Ruto did not end there; he set up the Orange party’s youth wing – Young Kenyans for Raila  – which traversed the country campaigning for the then ODM presidential candidate.

POLITICS

Before the 2013 General Election, he campaigned for Jubilee with Mr Ruto in Kisii, where he unsuccessfully sought the Kitutu Chache South parliamentary seat on a People’s Democratic Party ticket.

Described as a suave political wheeler-dealer who would stop at nothing to realise his goals, the father of two was also in the construction, real estate and entertainment industries.

One of the most visible facilities associated with him was Capri 7 Restaurant in Nairobi’s Hurlingham.

Mr Gichana was also a known philanthropist, donating generously to churches and community projects in his home county of Kisii.

His bubble burst on the Easter weekend of 2013 when he travelled to Arusha to visit his friend and lawyer Mr Mwale, who had been arrested on money laundering allegations.