Sh791m NYS theft case stalls as Gethi sister disappears

Suspected scam mastermind Ben Gethi. The trial could not proceed as his new lawyer was yet to respond. PHOTO | FILE
Suspected scam mastermind Ben Gethi. The trial could not proceed as his new lawyer was yet to respond. PHOTO | FILE 

The hearing of a money laundering case linked to the theft of Sh791 million from the National Youth Service hit a snag Monday.

Ten suspects in the case raised an objection against the proceedings saying they stand to be prejudiced in the absence of the eleventh accused, Ms Jedidah Wangari, who has since gone underground and has a pending warrant of arrest.

Ms Wangari is the sister of Ben Gethi, who is said to be the mastermind of the massive scandal.

However, the prosecution said the case may proceed in the absence of the suspect until she is traced and arrested. Mr Victor Mule said the objection was “yet another bid to stall the case.”

Businesswoman Josephine Kabura, Mr John Kago, their co-accused Mr Gethi, lawyer Patrick Ogola and seven others asked the court to suspend the trial until the suspect who is reportedly out of the country “is brought to court.”

“You honour we are asking this court to adjourned the case until the accused who is out of the country comes back and takes plea to prevent a re-trial” lawyer Chacha Odera who represents Mr Ogolla  told court.

Monday’s proceedings could not take place technically also in the light of the resignation of Mr Gethi’s lawyer Joseph Wagara.

Mr Gethi, who was then defending himself “in person”, said he had a new lawyer on board but “he was yet to respond.” The lawyer, though still acting for another suspect in the case, told court that “he no longer wished to represent” the businessman.

Mr Mule said he was ready to start his prosecution and had witnesses in court. “The 10 accused will suffer no prejudice if the trial continues and there is no likelihood of a re-trial,” he said.

The lawyer said the case has been in the public domain and it was in the interest of justice to bring it to a comprehensive conclusion.

A ruling on whether the case can proceed in Ms Wangari’s absence will be delivered on December 9.

The suspects have denied 15 counts of money laundering and are each out on a Sh300, 000 cash bail.