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Stringent bail terms consign graft suspects to hell in cells

Nancy Gitonga and Paul Muhoho @PeopleDailyKe

When President Kenyatta declared war on corruption a few months ago, many dismissed it as just another political statement. Only that this time it’s not!

Senior State officials, parastatal chiefs and businesspeople so far prosecuted over graft allegations are feeling the pinch.

And besides the arrests—which seemed like a mirage in the past—the big shots have found themselves spending more time in police cells partly because of tough bond terms meted out on them by the courts.

For instance, seven out of 48 suspects who were charged in relation to the Sh469 million fraud at the National Youth Service (NYS) are still languishing in remand since May 29 after failing to meet bond terms. This follows a directive by Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji to investigators to thoroughly ensure bail and sureties presented in court must not be proceeds of crime.

Apart from former Youth Affairs Principal secretary Lillian Omollo and former NYS director general Richard Ndubai, who also had to spend two days in remand awaiting the long bail verification process, others have spent nights in the cells.

Nakuru West MP Samuel Arama, arrested in June over land fraud claims, and his lawyer Kennedy Onkoba, had to spend nights in police cell before release.

Top Kenya Power managers, led by managing director Ken Tarus and his predecessor Ben Chumo, faced a similar fate after they were arrested alongside 20 other officials over graft allegations.

Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) managing director Charles Ongwae were also guests of the State after they were charged over abuse of office.

The woes of the suspects have been compounded by the long and methodical verification processes.

In the various graft cases, each suspect is directed to execute a personal bond and additional bond plus a cash bail ranging from Sh1 million to Sh5 million.

This means they are supposed to meet the three bond terms conditions which in total it may even end up to around Sh8 million for each. The bail verification process is co-ordinated by various government agencies, including courts and the Directorate of Criminal Investigations. 

The NYS suspects spent several nights in prisons—Industrial Area Remand Prison for men and Lang’ata Women’s for their female counterparts—before each of them could meet the bond terms of Sh5 million, sureties of Sh2 million each and Sh1 million cash bail.

Others who have faced the strict bond process include National Land Commission chairman Muhammad Swazuri, Kenya Railways managing director Atanas Maina and 12 others charged recently over alleged fraud in Standard Gauge Railway land compensation.

Former Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero and his 10 co-accused persons, Busia Governor Sospeter Ojaamong and others have not been spared the court’s wrath.

Prosecutors handling graft cases have also been tough on suspects, objecting to their release on grounds they would interfere with witnesses.

Other conditions described as harsh by defence lawyers include barring suspects from accessing their offices pending trial. This has led to their replacement.

They are also required to deposit their passports and any other traveling documents with the court. This means that all the accused persons will seek permission from the court if they need to travel out of the country and later return the travel documents to the court.

Most of the suspects facing corruption charges have had their bank accounts frozen by Asset Recovery Agency and Banking Fraud Unit pending further directions which has also contributed to them being unable to meet the bail terms.

Lawyers involved in some of the cases told People Daily that most of the top-level accused persons were freed after their family members came to court armed with bank slips once the bail terms were pronounced. Others relied on their business partners and close friends to raise the money.

“My client’s family camped at the bank to deposit the Sh3 million required for cash bail. Once the necessary paperwork was completed, he simply walked out of the courtroom within two hours,” said a lawyer who sought anonymity to protect advocate-client confidentiality.

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