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US cites overwhelming evidence against Wako

Wednesday November 20 2019

Amos Wako

Busia Senator and former Attorney-General Amos Wako. He is accused of corruption. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

WALTER MENYA
By WALTER MENYA
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A day after banning former Attorney-General Amos Wako from entering the United States, the State Department now says there is overwhelming evidence of corruption.

A US official said the graft allegations against Mr Wako, his wife Flora Ngaira and son Julius Wako, took place while the Busia senator was still the AG.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

But when contacted by the Nation for details of the allegations Tuesday, the Americans said they “will not be providing further particulars on the case”.

“While the law does not explicitly define significant corruption, we generally look at the nature of the corrupt acts, including any potential impact on US national interests. The Secretary of State has credible information that Mr Wako was involved in significant corruption while serving as Kenya’s Attorney-General,” said the agency.

US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo on Monday said the former AG, his wife Flora and son Julius were “ineligible for entry into the United States” for engaging in “significant corruption”.

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“Today’s action sends a strong signal that the United States is a valuable partner in Kenya’s fight against corruption. Economic prosperity for all Kenyans is only possible by defeating the scourge of corruption, which also requires a functional, fair, and transparent criminal justice system.

‘‘The United States will continue to stand with all Kenyans as they strive to curb and punish corruption in Kenya,” Mr Pompeo said in a statement posted on the State Department’s website.

GROWING SPECULATION

Mr Wako and son Julius, a lawyer at CMS Daly Inamdar Advocates, have maintained silence following their public designations for “corruption”. The Nation tried to reach them through email, SMS, calls and WhatsApp messages but they did not respond.

The Law Society of Kenya (LSK) said there was nothing they could do to the Wakos on the basis of the ban, unless there was a complaint filed with the disciplinary committee.

“The only thing that can affect their practice is if a complaint is initiated before the disciplinary committee and the accusations against them are found to be professional misconduct.

‘‘Moreover, the fact that someone is found to have professionally misconducted themselves does not mean they are automatically disbarred. There are sanctions based on the gravity of the misconduct,” LSK chief executive Mercy Wambua said.

There has been growing speculation as to what could have triggered the decision to bar Mr Wako from entering the US, coming more than eight years after he left the State Law Office, where he served for 20 years from 1991.

A September 1, 2009, diplomatic cable published by Wikileaks offers a glimpse into his troubles with the US.

In the cable, Ambassador Michael Ranneberger accused Mr Wako of obstructing prosecution of senior government officials accused of corruption.

“Amos Wako has been Kenya’s Attorney-General (AG) for the past 18 years (in 2009). During this period, despite a string of major corruption scandals, he has not only failed to prosecute successfully a single senior governmental figure but he also has actively thwarted their prosecution,” he told his Washington bosses in the cable as he sought the withdrawal of Mr Wako’s US visa.

“Others have noted the AG’s poor quality of legal advice to the government that helped to facilitate both the Anglo-Leasing and Goldenberg mega-scandals by lending his stamp of approval to fraudulent contracts that were the basis for stealing over a billion dollars from the Kenyan government,” Mr Ranneberger added. 

‘‘At the same time, in a pattern of supporting Kenya’s culture of impunity, Wako has been identified by the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Arbitrary or Summary Executions in Kenya as the chief obstacle to prosecuting anyone in authority for extrajudicial executions.,” Mr Ranneberger added.

It was not the first time Mr Wako was being banned from entering the US. In 2009, former US ambassador to Nairobi Michael Ranneberger had recommended to the State Department that Mr Wako’s US visa be withdrawn for allegedly engaging in “public corruption through interference with judicial and other public processes.”

A few weeks later, Mr Wako along with former Commissioner of Police Hussein Ali were denied entry to the US.

Mr Wako served as the country’s Attorney General for 20 years from 1991. He left in August 2011 on operation of the transitional provisions of the 2010 Constitution that required that individuals who were serving as Attorney General, Chief Justice and Auditor General before the promulgation of the constitution in August 2010 exit within six months to a year after promulgation.

He is currently serving his second term as Busia Senator on ODM party ticket. He is also the co-chair of the Building Bridges for National Unity Advisory Taskforce set up by President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga to advise them on how to implement the March 2018 ‘handshake’ proposals for national unity and electoral justice.

SMART LAWYER

The tens of thousands of Kenyans born in early 1990s grew up knowing just one Attorney General. For 20 years, Amos Wako held that office in both Moi and Kibaki administration weathering the political storms and transition from one president to another.

He headed the State Law Office at a time when the office combined the roles of being chief legal adviser to the government and also public prosecutions. The dual roles made the office one of the most powerful in government.

How Mr Wako was able to survive the personnel upheavals in both Moi and Kibaki administrations is a question that baffles many. In an opinion piece published in the Daily Nation on October 30, 2009, adviser to former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, Paul Mwangi, wrote of the folly of underrating Mr Wako.

“The commonest error made by almost all critics of Mr Amos Wako is to underrate him. Yet Mr Amos Shitswila Wako is one of the most intelligent people and a very smart lawyer indeed. And because people judge him by his deceptively baby-faced smile and affected moronic demeanour, he outwits them all the time,” Mr Mwangi wrote.

BATTERED IMAGE

Mr Wako co-chairs the Building Bridges for National Unity Advisory Taskforce while Mr Mwangi is the joint secretary of the taskforce.

Born in 1945, holds three degrees — two in law, a Bachelor and a Master’s degree, and one in economics. He is also a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators. He serves as a member of the International Law Commission (ILC), a UN body charged with the promotion of the progressive development of international law and its codification. His current term ends in 2021.

Retired President Moi appointed Mr Wako to head the State Law Office in 1991 replacing Matthew Guy Muli who had served for eight years. He came from the private practice and was largely appointed to help shore up the Kanu regime’s battered international image over accusations of human rights abuses.

In 2005, after the collapse of the Bomas constitutional review conference, the Kibaki government took the draft constitution and tasked Mr Wako with making changes to it to suit what State House wanted. The document became known as the Wako Draft and was rejected by Kenyans at that year’s referendum on the new constitution.

LIKE FATHER

Like his father, Julius Wako is a lawyer. He is a partner at CMS Daly Inamdar Advocates, a Nairobi-based international law firm with its offices at ABC Plaza, Waiyaki Way.

His profile in the firm’s website indicates that he specialises in banking & finance; oil, energy and mining; commercial property; general corporate and regulatory advice.

“Julius trained at Kaplan & Stratton Advocates till 2001. He worked at Kapila Anjarwalla and Khanna Advocates till 2004 and joined Daly & Inamdar in 2005. He is ranked as a leading lawyer by IFLR1000 and Legal 500,” reads his profile.

He was admitted to the bar in 2001 and among the many achievements as a lawyer is “advising a joint venture company with respect to their acquisition of various properties for purposes of its oil and gas exploration activities pursuant to its production sharing contracts entered into with the Government of the Republic of Kenya.”

His public designation by the US State Department on Monday means that like his father, he is “ineligible for entry into the United States.”