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154 suspects to be charged in biggest anti-graft crusade

Irene Githinji and Kinyuru Munuhe @PeopleDailyKe

The biggest anti-corruption prosecution in Kenya is expected to commence this morning with 154 suspects in the dock, including a Principal secretary and a State agency director.

Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Noordin Haji has named 54 individuals due in court this morning to face charges of making irregular payments totalling Sh468 million from  the National Youth Service (NYS) .

Haji said thye suspects will be arraigned in court after he found them culpable in the almost Sh500,000 million squander of public funds where companies were paid varied sums by NYS for supplying nothing.

Fourty are public servants, including Youth Affairs Principal secretary Lillian Mbogo-Omollo, and NYS director-general Richard Ndubai, both who have since stepped aside, while  14 are directors and proprietors of business entities.

Ms Omollo surrendered to the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) yesterday morning as detectives embarked on a hot pursuit of suspects mentioned in the NYS scandal, netting at least 20.

Most of the arrests were carried out in the wee hours of the morning, while others were woken up by loud knocks on their gates at dawn and bundled into police vehicles.

NYS recruits at a passing-out parade. The service has been dogged by corruption cases running into billions of shillings since 2013. Photo/FILE

It was the biggest swoop against graft suspects as the government moves with re-energised impetus to crack down on runaway corruption that threatens to ruin its development initiative.

Ndubai was picked by detectives attached to Special Crimes Prevention Unit (SCPU) at his Lower Kabete and detained at Muthaiga Police Station. Senior NYS Deputy Director Sam Muchuki was arrested at his Muthaiga residence while Finance boss Sammy Mbugua was also nabbed at dawn and booked at Muthaiga Police Station.

All the suspects were later held at Mazingira House for more than eight hours undergoing pre-charge processing. Their lawyers and relatives were allowed to see them including bringing them refreshments.

By yesterday afternoon, 20 suspects had been arrested, even as Haji urged those who had gone underground to surrender.

Haji said investigations will be conducted in phases, after the first one revealed that no procurement was undertaken, yet hefty amounts of monies were paid out.

“The public servants will be charged with several offences, including conspiracy to commit an offence of corruption, willful failure to comply with applicable procedure and guidelines relating to management of public funds, breach of trust, willful neglect to perform official duty, abuse of office, fraudulent acquisition of public property and making payment from public revenues for goods not supplied,” Haji announced.

The chief prosecutor said pending bills amounting to Sh8 billion were being investigated even as it emerged that “no procurement was undertaken before monies were paid out.”

In phase two of the probe, Haji said the DCI will focus on companies and entities – including commercial banks – suspected to have benefitted from the fraudulent payments or were complicit in offences committed.

Subsequently, money obtained in this process was used to do legitimate businesses from proceeds of crime. The DPP also said the current phase of investigations involves Sh468.9 million that was paid out to 10 companies and entities.

Majority of those to be arraigned in court are drawn from different NYS departments while others are from the National Treasury, Mechanical and Transport Branch (MTB), including storekeepers.

Others include former acting director general Sammy Michuki, senior deputy director Nicholas Ahere, acting Finance director Wellington Lubira and former chief accountant Clement Murage, all of whom are from NYS.

Among directors of business entities to be charged include Anne Ngirita, Jeremiah Ngirita, Lucy Ngirita, Catherine Kamuyu, James Thuita, Peter Kimani and Yvonne Ngugi.

Business entities that have been named in the scandal include Annwaw Investments, Njewanga Investments, Arkroad Holdings Limited, Kunjiwa Enterprises, Ameri Trade Limited, Kalabash Food Supplies Limited among others.

“We have a watertight case…I am satisfied that the evidence is sufficient to warrant urgent prosecution,” said Haji. The DCI submitted probe files to the DPP on May 8 for perusal and advice.

Upon perusal of the files and in consideration of the evidence, Haji said he found sufficient evidence upon which to base a criminal prosecution against the suspects.

He, however, returned the files to DCI to cover some of the critical areas in order to strengthen the cases. On May 27, the DCI re-submitted the investigation files and after further evaluation Haji was satisfied that the evidence is sufficient to stand the test of a court trial.

“The fight against corruption is in top gear and efforts will be put in place to fight this vice. Corruption is hurting our country, it will take time but I want to assure that this will be the new trend in the fight graft,” Haji said.

“In addition to prosecution, we are looking at recovering the proceeds of crime as well as establishing the tax status of companies and individuals involved in the crimes,” said Haji, who spoke from his office yesterday.

He said several bank accounts that the funds were channelled through have been frozen and his office is working with DCI and Asset Recovery Agency in this regard.

“As the investigations continue, more suspects are likely to be charged. I will appoint four special prosecutors to work with my office,” the DPP stated.

Haji said his office will continue to work with other agencies to ensure effective prosecution of all corruption cases to safeguard public funds, even as he urged persons with information that might assist in the prosecution to volunteer to his office. Banks involved in the payout will also be investigated in addition to a forensic audit of the NYS.

Haji said banks are supposed to report suspicious transactions but in this case there were many withdrawals of monies surpassing the highest amount allowed by law.

Investigations into the NYS scandal is being backdated to 2013. Investigators have captured evidence on transactions of huge withdrawals in profiled suspect companies and concurrent report to the Financial Reporting Centre (FRC) and the Central Bank of Kenya.

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