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Muhammad Swazuri, 10 others to spend Easter in remand

Thursday April 18 2019

muhammad swazuri

Prof Swazuri (right) and his co-accused when they appeared before the Anti-Corruption Court at Milimani in Nairobi on April 18, 2019. PHOTO | DENNIS ONSONGO | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

SAM KIPLAGAT
By SAM KIPLAGAT
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Former land commission chair Muhammad Swazuri and 10 other individuals charged with corruption in a compensation deal will spend the long Easter weekend in remand.

The Anti-Corruption Court on Thursday ordered Prof Swazuri and the other accused locked up as they await a ruling on their bond application.

Their request will be determined on Tuesday, after Christians mark the crucifixion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

VALUATIONS

The 11 were charged over alleged fraudulent compensation for the parcel the National Land Commission acquired for construction of the Mombasa Southern Bypass and Kipevu New Highway Container Terminal link road in 2013.

The land belonging to Tornado Carriers Limited was initially valued at Sh34,501,110 in 2015 but the commission ended up paying Sh109,769,363 after Dr Swazuri ordered a second valuation.

The accused faced several charges, including corruption, conspiracy to commit an economic crime, unlawful acquisition of property, dealing with stolen property, abuse of office, financial misconduct and money laundering.

ARGUMENTS

In court on Thursday, the prosecution opposed the accused's release, saying they were likely to interfere with the trial, a reason it termed compelling.

The defence, however, urged Senior Principal Magistrate Lawrence Mugambi to free them, saying there was no good reason to deny them their freedom.

The team also said the prosecution had not tabled evidence to show the accused had interfered with witnesses or would fail to attend court for the trial.

Mr Mugambi said the submissions were lengthy so he needed time to go through them before determining whether to free Dr Swazuri and the others.

THE ACCUSED

Other that Prof Swazuri, the others in court are NLC commissioner Emma Njogu, Deputy Director of Valuation and Taxation Joash Oindo, businessman Samuel Rugongo, Michael Onyango Oloo and his wife Lilian Keverenge, who is a secretary at the NLC, and the commission's Chief Executive Officer Tom Chavangi.

Others are Godfrey Muritu, Evahmary Wachera, Francis Karimi, Director of Valuation Salome Munubi and Director of Finance Francis Mugo.

The magistrate directed 12 other suspects who were not in court to present themselves to the offices of the Ethics and Anti-corruption Commission offices on Tuesday. They will be arrested if they do not.

The suspects have denied the charges.

MANY QUESTIONS

For Dr Swazuri and staff of NLC, questions about land compensation for the construction of the standard gauge railway and roads have become a burden that refuses to go away.

In August 2018, the besieged former chairman was charged alongside suspended Kenya Railways Managing Director Atanas Maina over fraudulent compensation for land meant for the SGR, a circumstance that led to a loss of Sh221 million.

There have also been numerous complaints by individuals who claim NLC either defrauded them of their compensation for land they gave up for construction of the SGR, or that it unduly withheld their payment while demanding bribes.