Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) managing director Charles Ongwae and nine others yesterday denied several attempted murder charges in relation to importation of 5,846,000 bags of substandard fertiliser.
The 10 accused persons who appeared before Milimani principal magistrate Kennedy Cheruiyot faced other charges of abuse of office, conspiracy to defraud, aiding the commission of a felony and breach of trust.
The magistrate ordered Ongwae and seven others in the first count be released on a Sh10 million bond and Sh3 million surety and also deposit a cash bail of Sh2 million.
Cheruiyot ordered that they deposit their passports and any other travelling documents with the court.
The court has ordered the accused persons to be reporting to the investigation officer once a week until further orders.
They were also ordered to avoid contact with any possible witnesses in the cases or their former associates.
The magistrate said even though the offences were serious, they were bailable and the prosecution did not provide compelling reasons how they would interfere with potential witnesses and abscond court.
This is after the Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji through his assistant Alexander Muteti opposed the plea for bail or bond terms saying they would interfere with the trial, intimidate witnesses and were also a flight risk.
Muteti said the offences were serious, and that the substance that was allegedly found in the fertiliser— mercury—was dangerous to the environment.
“Justice will be prejudiced if the accused are granted bail. We urge the court to detain them pending hearing and determination of the case,” he said.
“The offences facing the accused persons are bailable and they have qualified to be released on bail,” he ruled, adding that the accused were still innocent until proven guilty.
At the same time the magistrate ordered that international warrants of arrest be issued against OCP Kenya Limited and directors of Madras charged with conspiracy to defraud over Sh882 million.
The prosecution said some of the accused persons were in Morocco and India.
Those charged alongside Ongwae include Quality Assurance director Eric Chesire Kiprono, Kebs inspection manager Peter Kinyanjui, Coast regional director Martin Nyakiamo, Port health officer-Kilindini Port Pole Mwangeni, Supervisor of Customs Kenya Revenue Authority Erick Kariuki Kirimi and Clearing Agent Bollore Transport Benson Ngesa.
The prosecution alleges that Ongwae and seven others jointly and unlawfully caused the death of people residing in Narok and Eldoret by releasing to OCP (K) 5,846,000 of substandard compound fertiliser, which contained mercury that endangers human life.
The offences were committed on diverse dates between November 13, 2017, and June 7, 2018 the prosecution said.
They were also charged with procurement of fake standardisation sticker marks worth Sh882 million, aiding commissioning of felony, breach of trust and abuse of office.
The prosecution alleges that on diverse dates between December 9,2014 and May 23,2018 in Nairobi county jointly with others not before court, they conspired with intended to defraud the government of Kenya Sh882 million by entering into a contract for the supply and delivery of Kebs quality markers, to wit, ISM stickers complete with traceability system, knowing that Madras Security Printers Private Ltd had no capacity to deliver.
The court heard that the first six being in the public service jointly aided OCP (K) to commit a felony by releasing for use the 5.8kg of substandard fertiliser which contained mercury that endangers human life.
It was further alleged that they breached the public trust by releasing the said substandard compound fertiliser that was imported by OCP (K) Ltd.