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Sh40bn arms racket: Defence ministry denies involvement

Wednesday March 18 2020
Rashid

Former Sports CS Rashid Echesa leaves the JKIA Law Courts on February 14, 2020, after a ruling on his release from police custody, on a police cash bail of Sh1 million, in the Sh40 billion military equipment scandal. PHOTO | FRANCIS NDERITU | NATION MEDIA GROUP

By JILL NAMATSI

The Defence ministry has denied involvement in the Sh40 billion military equipment scandal, that has seen the office of the Deputy President put on the spot and former Sports Cabinet Secretary Rashid Echesa arrested.

Mr Echesa allegedly used DP William Ruto's office to swindle Sh11 million as brokerage fees from directors of Echo Advanced Technologies LLC, claiming he could help them win the lucrative tender.

It is also alleged that he forged Defence Cabinet Secretary Monica Juma's signature to convince Echo representatives that it was a government deal.

Mr Echesa was charged on Monday, alongside Daniel Otieno, Clifford Okoth and Kennedy Oyoo, with 12 counts of attempting to defraud the organisation.

They denied all the charges and were released on a Sh1 million cash bail each.

MINISTRY'S POSITION

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In a statement following Monday's events, the Defence ministry said that investigators and complainants visited its headquarters in Nairobi to verify presence of the officers they met.

"During the visit, it was established that the complainants have never interacted with any official mandated to represent the Ministry of Defence," Public Communications Director Bogita Ongeri said in the statement.

He added: "All the documents and content displayed in the media, pertaining to the matter, never originated from the Ministry of Defence."

The ministry accused the media of creating a "scandalous and libellous" narrative and said it would seek redress.

The documents in question include an end-user certificate, a non-disclosure agreement, letters of award and an extension of notification of award letter.

They were used to prepare a contract between the ministry and Echo, a company owned by American Koziowski Stanley Bruno.

Signed by Mr Echesa, his three co-accused and others, they were reportedly presented as the genuine ones from the ministry, the aim being to fraudulently obtain money from Mr Bruno.

THE VISIT

Mr Echesa and two men visited the DP's Harambee House office from 9.39 am to 10.02 am.

Upon arrival, they were ushered into the waiting room as per visiting standards.

Mr Echesa reportedly claimed he had an appointment with the DP but did not meet him as the DP was scheduled to work from his Karen office.

In addition, the DP's diary stated that he had no scheduled appointment with Mr Echesa and that he later left for Murang'a County to attend a burial.

SO FAR

Detectives from the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) arrested Mr Echesa last Friday over the fake military equipment tender.

He was arraigned on Friday at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) court, where police sought to detain him for 21 days to complete the investigations.

CCTV footage taken from DP Ruto’s office that day positively identified two of his aides as being present on February 13, when Mr Echesa met officials from Echo over the deal.

He has accused his political rivals of launching a smear campaign and now wants the investigations expedited without interference by politicians and the media.

On Monday, Mr Echesa's lawyers asked the court to order the release of two vehicles and firearms seized during a search at his home since they were not mentioned in the charge sheet.

They further asked the court to bar Kitui Governor Charity Ngilu, Siaya Senator James Orengo, Francis Atwoli, who is Secretary-General of the Central Organisation of Trade Unions (Cotu), and other politicians from discussing the matter.

The court declined to gag anyone, citing freedom of speech.

Additional reporting by Mercy Chelangat

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