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Mischief in big fish corruption trials

Sunday November 17 2019

Tycoon Yagnesh Devani, whose company, Triton Petroleum, was allegedly involved in stealing oil from the Mombasa storage facility belonging to Kenya Commercial Bank. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Tycoon Yagnesh Devani, whose company, Triton Petroleum, was allegedly involved in stealing oil from the Mombasa storage facility belonging to Kenya Commercial Bank. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

 NYAMBEGA GISESA
By NYAMBEGA GISESA
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After 10 years, the trial of businessman Yagnesh Devani and seven others in a corruption case (the Triton scandal) involving billions of shillings is yet to be finalised. The case is among dozens involving the rich and mighty that have never been completed.

In a shocking revelation, the Sunday Nation can reveal that besides Mr Devani’s case there are seven other corruption cases involving embezzlement of public funds running into billions of shillings that have also been in the courts for 10 years.

Other cases yet to be finalised 10 years after the suspects were charged include those of former long-serving Kemri director Davy Koech, former Kenya Pipeline Company (KPC) Managing Director Shem Ochuodho and former PS Sammy Kirui (cemetery scandal).

The others are the 2010 World Bank Education Funds scandal and the Sh1.6 billion NSSF scam.

The Sh7.6bn Triton scam

Since he took a plea on June 16, 2009, Mr Devani, the businessman behind the Sh7.6 billion Triton petroleum scandal, has exploited Kenyan courts in one of the many examples of how the rich easily run away from justice.

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Mr Devani was charged alongside Triton Company, Benedict Mutua (KPC), Julius Kilonzo (Triton), Phanuel Okwengu (KPC), Peter Mecha (KPC) and Collins Otieno (Triton).

The mischief of the trial started days after some senior officers at KPC and Triton pleaded not guilty to 13 counts over the irregular release of petroleum products to Mr Devani.

Instead of Mr Devani standing trial alongside the other suspects, Director of Public Prosecutions Keriako Tobiko, now the Cabinet secretary for Environment, withdrew a case on which a warrant of arrest had been issued earlier.

But after a public outcry, another warrant of arrest for Mr Devani was issued 24 hours later, with hopes among the public that the trial of the suspects was to be quick and swift.

In 2008, Mr Devani managed to have 96,000 tonnes of processed petroleum worth Sh7.6 billion released to him without authorisation from the financiers of the cargo.

Mr Devani, the chief architect of the scam, remains at large in the UK though Kenya has issued an extradition order.

Recently, the prosecution introduced new statements in court.

So far, 22 witnesses have been heard.

Kemri fraud case

Last month, the 2009 fraud case in which medical researcher Dr Koech was accused of swindling the Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri) of Sh19.3 million came up for submissions.

The former long-serving Kemri director and others were again charged in 2010 over the fraudulent acquisition of Sh536,986,493 belonging to Kemri.

The charges range from fraudulent acquisition and disposal of public property, abuse of office and failure to comply with the law relating to the management of the retirement benefits scheme’s fund.

The 2010 case will come for hearing on November 29.

Kenya Pipeline Company case

In 2010, former KPC Managing Director Ochuodho and two former senior managers John Macharia and Janice Theresia Kiarie Wanjiku, alias Terry Winjenje, were charged over a scam involving Sh1,250,577,549.

In the case, Mr Ochuodho is accused of fraudulently instructing Standard Chartered Bank of Kenya to pay Triple-A Capital Ltd Sh1,250,577,549 from KPC’s account purporting it to be a refund on account of Triple-A Capital having paid a similar sum to KPC’s international creditor, Export Development Canada (EDC), yet no such payment had been made by Triple-A Capital and on behalf of KPC to EDC.

The case was held for a long time after the suspects filed cases at the High Court, Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court, obtaining several orders along the way.

The case has started afresh after the DPP appealed.

Cemetery scandal

The case involving Sammy Kirui and 12 others is a classic example of how to legally beat the justice system.

In this case, Kirui, a former Local Government PS, and 12 senior officials were charged over the Sh260 million cemetery land scandal at City Hall.

Mr Kirui was accused of being the chief architect of the scandal in which City Hall bought 120 acres of land worth Sh24 million for Sh259 million in Mavoko township.

So as to “delay” its conclusion, despite the witnesses, evidence and legal teams being almost the same, the case was divided into three.

Although some of the suspects, such as former town clerk John Gakuo, were found guilty and convicted, some suspects still roam free.

Education funds scandal

The prosecution of Ministry of Education officials Concelia Ondiek and Christine Chacha over the embezzlement of Sh14 million of public funds for the World Bank/Government of Kenya-funded Education Sector Support Programme is yet to be finalised.

After years of dragging on, the court ruled on October 29 that Ms Ondiek had a case to answer over the embezzlement of the funds.

Sh1.6bn NHIF scam

The case, involving former National Social Security Fund (NSSF) staff and other individuals in which they were charged with defrauding pensioners of almost Sh1.6 billion, is still going on, nine years later.

Among those charged are NSSF’s Francis Moturi Zuriels, an investments manager, James Akoya, finance general manager, and internal auditor Mary Ndirangu.

Others are former directors of Discount Securities Ltd (under statutory management) and Orchard Estates Ltd, who allegedly benefited from the payouts.

The funds were allegedly lost in irregular trading of shares through discount securities in the years 2004-2007.

So far 41 witnesses have testified in the case, which came up for mention on October 29.