Contributors to the national health insurer may have lost Sh2 billion through online payment system JamboPay, driving Kenya's top crime buster George Kinoti and Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Noordin Haji to seek the prosecution of the scheme’s top bosses for allegedly blocking investigations.
DPP Haji on Tuesday instructed Alexander Muteti — one of his assistants — to ask Chief Magistrate Francis Andayi not to let National Health Insurance Fund Chief Executive Geoffrey Mwangi and Finance Director Wilbert Kurgat free without depositing at least a Sh50 million bond.
Mr Andayi will on Wednesday determine whether to grant bond to the two, who have been accused of withholding crucial payment vouchers that could help unravel a Sh2 billion fraud scheme at the insurer.
Resident Magistrate Sinkiyan Tobiko had on September 25 granted an order allowing investigators to cart away documents and electronics crucial to investigations.
When investigators later tried to get payment vouchers and other documents related to the case, Mr Kurgat failed to co-operate, leading the police to conclude he was acting on instructions from Mr Mwangi.
On Tuesday the two NHIF bosses pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to defeat justice and disobedience of a lawful order just moments after Mr Andayi had dismissed their request to suspend their prosecution. The magistrate ordered that they be remanded at the Industrial Area Prison, after their lawyers were unable to strike a deal with prosecutors on bond terms.
Mr Andayi ruled that any defects in the charge sheet, as pointed out by defence lawyers, can be rectified later. He added that the law does not require prosecutors to prove that a court order was intentionally violated to charge someone with conspiracy to defeat justice.
He added that the NHIF bosses were free to go back to court for clarification on the police search-and-seizure order they have been accused of violating.
SH500,000 CASH BAIL
Jotham Arwa, one of the eight lawyers for the NHIF bosses, argued that the charges are not serious and that the two should be released on at most Sh500,000 cash bail.
But prosecutors Alex Muteti and Victor Owiti said the two should be locked up until investigations are complete. They suggested a bond of Sh5 million or cash bail of Sh3 million.
“The accused have spent four nights in police cells and you can see how sad they look,” Mr Tom Ojienda, one of Mr Mwangi’s lawyers, said.
Mr Muteti said his boss, Mr Haji, believed that investigators are probing the loss of Sh2 billion, hence the bond amounts should be at least Sh50 million.
“We have not been able to agree on any terms. On our part we took instructions and DPP has instructed us to put this on record. That NHIF investigations involve the loss of 2 billion. Secondly, it is absolutely difficult for us to quantify or assign any figure in monetary terms on that question of terms and indeed that the proposal that the DPP has given is 50 million on each individual,” Mr Muteti said.
The defence lawyers asked the court to strike out text messages between the officials that prosecutors want to use as evidence. They said the messages were acquired in violation of privacy rights and cannot be a basis for evidence of obstructing justice.
But Mr Muteti said the search-and-seizure order granted to investigators in September allowed them to collect computers and other electronic devices and obtain any necessary evidence.