The suspects in the National Youth Service (NYS) Sh468 million scandal yesterday protested in court that they were starving in remand prison.
When they appeared in court for pre-trial, the suspects, through their lawyers, urged chief magistrate of the Anti-Corruption court Douglas Ogoti to issue directives they be provided with bottled water, soda and biscuits since they were hungry, claiming they had gone without supper on Tuesday at their respective remand prisons.
One of them, Ann Ngirita, alleged to have been paid Sh59 million after supplying no goods to NYS, claimed through her lawyer she had not eaten since Sunday and had been surviving on samosas supplied by a relative.
Ngirita and several other accused were directors of companies that are said to have “supplied air” to the NYS in exchange for hefty payments.
Addressing the court through lawyer Cliff Ombeta, Ngirita said it was difficult for them to follow the proceedings on empty stomachs and accused officials at Lang’ata Women’s Prison of treating them as if they had already been found guilty.
They informed the court they missed breakfast on Wednesday morning before they appeared in court because they left their remand cells before it was served.
“We are apprehensive that our clients may also miss lunch and supper today because the pre-trial conference may take longer,” said the defense lawyer.
When they first appeared in court on May 29, the court session took more than 10 hours where some suspects were seen taking water and soft drinks.
At some point, they urged the court to review their bond application to enable them to get food and prepare for trial while out on bond.
All the 46 suspects are facing charges variously related to the alleged loss of Sh468 million at NYS.
At the same time, two of the accused have moved to the High Court to challenge a decision by the magistrate to deny them bail pending hearing and determination of their case.
James Thuita and Yvonne Gachie, in their appeal papers, claim the magistrate failed to uphold the presumption of innocence until proven guilty.
“That the most paramount consideration in granting bail is in the assurance to the court the accused persons will attend court. The prosecution did not present any evidence to show that the applicants were likely to abscond in the event they were granted bail,” read the appeal.
The duo claims they are sickly and they need specialised treatment from facilities of their choice other than the remand clinic.
The accused, who are among 43 denied bail, further claim Ogoti failed to uphold the presumption of innocence until proven guilty while failing to grant them bail.
Their move comes a day after the Anti-Corruption court denied all the suspects bail saying they were charged with Economic Crimes which are serious offences.
“It is the opinion of the court that it can lead to anarchy, a threat to peace and national security. This, in itself, is a compelling reason why bail should be, and is hereby, denied,” ruled Ogoti.
Three more suspects took plea over the same charges yesterday before the beginning of the pre-trial session.
They are Peter Kimani and Anthony Makara, directors of Arkroad Holdings, and Josphat Njoroge, –a member of verification committee. Arkroad Holdings is among 10 companies listed by the Directorate of Criminal Investigations as among the business entities that benefited from the loot.
The charges against Makara and Wagura state that on diverse dates between November 4, 2016 and April, 2017, were Directors of Arkroad holdings limited when the said company unlawfully received public Property to the tune of Sh24,866,800 from NYS by purporting to have supplied goods.
At the same time, the pre-trial session hit a snag after defense lawyers protested that the prosecution had not supplied them with all the evidence material they will be relying on during the trial.
This prompted the trial magistrate to order the prosecution to supply the defence with all copies of witness statements and evidence material they will be relying on before the mention of the case on June 20.