National Land Commission (NLC) chairman Muhammad Swazuri, Kenya Railways managing director Atanas Maina and 15 others were yesterday charged with illegally facilitating the payment of Sh221.3 million in compensation for the acquisition of land for the Standard Gauge Railway.
The accused, who appeared before Milimani Chief Magistrate Lawrence Mugambi also denied charges related to abuse of office, breach of trust, unlawful acquisition of public property, unlawful disposal of public property and neglect of official duty.
The magistrate granted each a bond of Sh6 million with a surety of similar amount or a cash bail of Sh3.5 million. Mugambi said he did not find compelling grounds why the accused should not be granted bail.
The magistrate noted that Article 49 (h) of the Constitution provides for the release of accused persons on reasonable terms in the absence of compelling reasons not to do so.
Swazuri pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to defraud by approving the payments totaling to Sh221.3 million for five parcels of public land. He is further accused of abusing his office by using his position to improperly confer benefits to three companies whose purported titles for five pieces of land marked as railway reserve are said to have been revoked.
The three firms namely Dasahe Investment Limited, Keibukwo Investment Limited and Olomotit Investment Limited were awarded various sums between October 2016 and February 2017. Maina denied failing to protect the parcels of land, listed as railway reserves.
The court heard that between July 1,1999 and June 30, 2018 in Nairobi county, the 17 accused persons jointly with others not before court conspired to commit an offence of corruption namely fraud leading to the loss of public funds belonging to Kenya Railways Corporation amounting to Sh221,375,00 for the compensation for acquisition of LR. Nos 9084, 9085, 9086 and 9088 being public land.
Prosecution led by Senior Assistant DPP Lilian Obuo opposed bail, saying if granted there was a likelihood of witness interference and that the accused could abscond court.
But defence lawyers led by Tom Ojienda pleaded for reasonable bail terms saying the accused were not a threat to national security.
“The charges against the accused persons are not serious. These are victims of a process and this is a matter that has a civil perspective,” he said.