The High Court yesterday freed on bond all suspects in the Sh468 million National Youth Service (NYS) scandal case, but with stringent terms.
But it could be a long walk to freedom because the suspects will be subjected to thorough scrutiny spelt out by the court—and a longer in cells for some.
Justice Hedwig Ong’undi freed the accused, including Youth Affairs PS Lillian Omollo and NYS director general Richard Ndubai together with 46 others on a bond of Sh5 million bond each and a surety of Sh2 million.
She also ordered them to deposit an additional Sh1 million cash bail each to secure their temporary freedom pending hearing and determination of the graft cases against them.
“I grant all the accused persons bail. Each to execute a bond of Sh5 million plus a surety of Sh2 million to be approved by any of the chief magistrate of the anti-corruption court,” said the judge.
Justice Ong’undi said the prosecution did not give compelling reasons that the accused were likely to interfere with witnesses.
State counsel Duncan Ondimu had urged the court to dismiss the bail application, saying there was a likelihood suspects would interfere with witnesses.
“As I grant bail, I am alive to the seriousness of the offences faced by the accused persons, but there is need for the court to stand as a neutral arbiter in the matter until the opportune time when it renders its determination,” she ruled.
The judge ordered the accused to deposit their passports and any other travelling documents with the court.
They must also not access their former offices unless accompanied by a police officer.
The suspects are further required be report to the Directorate of Criminal Investigations office in Gigiri once a week and must not leave the jurisdiction of Nairobi magistrate’s court until the matter is heard and determined.
Justice Ong’undi directed all accused not make any contact, direct or otherwise, with any NYS staff or witnesses. She also ordered them to attend court mentions and hearings whenever called upon.
The suspects have been in remand for close to three weeks. On June 5, they were denied bail by chief magistrate Douglas Ogoti on grounds of the seriousness of the charges the suspects face, which he said pose a threat to the financial health of the nation.
The judge also dismissed allegations by the defence that the Chief Justice David Maraga was interfering with the case because of a letter written to him by Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji.
Ong’undi said DPP’s letter to the CJ was to express the role his office will play in ensuring the matter was handled expeditiously.
Speaking to journalists after the bail ruling, defence lawyer Cliff Ombeta noted it was not easy for the accused to meet the conditions set by the court, saying most had neither stable income nor jobs.
He said they would apply for a review of the bond terms because getting the sureties was no easy task.
The 48 were charged with conspiracy to commit crime, abuse of office, fraudulent acquisition of public property, approving payments of goods and services not supplied, and failure to comply with procedures on guidelines relating to the management of public funds.
Besides Ombeta, other defence lawyers Stephen Ligunya, Stanley Kang’ahi and Kirathe Wandugi.
The suspects PS Omollo, Ndubai, NYS senior deputy director Nicholas Ochieng Ahere, finance director Wellington Lubira, Christopher Simbauni, Michael Ojiambo, Peter Mahugu Muritu, David Maina, John Mwaniki,Catherine Njeri Kamuyu, Tabitha Ndungu, Sarah Muguru, Clara Mbau, Ken Mburu, Grace Mbere, clement Murage, Nicholas Otieno, George Otieno Ouma, Simon kanyi kiiru, Don Kariuki Mwaniki Kenneth Mwangi.