Health

Hospitals get Sh450m seized from Gichuru

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Mr Chris Okemo (left) and former Kenya Power and Lighting boss Samuel Gichuru. FILE PHOTO | NMG

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Summary

  • The repatriation deal disclosed by Jersey indicates the millions of shillings will be used for purchase of medical supplies to ease the burden of Covid-19 treatment.
  • The Royal Court of Jersey said the Gichuru-Okemo slush fund received bribes in hard currency estimated at Sh1.07 billion (£3.9 million and $4.2 million), but only half of the entire loot was found and seized last month.
  • Mr Gichuru and Mr Okemo had subtly wired large sums from the Jersey account to themselves in the years to 2002.

Kenyan and Jersey authorities on Monday agreed to buy ambulances, ICU beds and oxygen generators using Sh450.6 million seized from the secret offshore banks belonging to former Kenya Power #ticker:KPLC boss Samuel Gichuru and ex-Energy minister Chris Okemo.

The authorities in Jersey, which is part of the British Isles, say the Sh450.6 million will be the first batch of cash seized from Kenyans that will be repatriated to Nairobi—more than nine years after the secret accounts were frozen.

The repatriation deal disclosed by Jersey indicates the millions of shillings will be used for purchase of medical supplies to ease the burden of Covid-19 treatment, especially in rural areas where the public health system is creaking with scarce ICU units.

The Royal Court of Jersey said the Gichuru-Okemo slush fund received bribes in hard currency estimated at Sh1.07 billion (£3.9 million and $4.2 million), but only half of the entire loot was found and seized last month.

Mr Gichuru and Mr Okemo had subtly wired large sums from the Jersey account to themselves in the years to 2002.

Head of Public Service of Kenya Joseph Kinyua revealed on Monday the seized funds were initially targeted for the energy sector but were redirected to combating the Covid-19.

“It is appreciated that the initial intention was to undertake projects within the energy sector, but following the onset of Covid-19, the Steering Committee adopted a pragmatic resolution to support project interventions within the health sector, noting the ramifications of the pandemic not only in Kenya but across all nations,” said Mr Kinyua.

Under the deal signed in London on Monday between Jersey attorney general Mark Temple and Kenya’s Asset Recovery Agreement (ARA), Nairobi-based aid agency Amref Health Africa and UK non-governmental organisation Crown Agents will be contracted to supply the medical equipment.

“The ARA sets out that 90 percent of the funds will be allocated to the procurement of essential medical equipment, including intensive care units and hospital beds, through Crown Agents,” said Kenya and Jersey yesterday in a joint statement.

“The remaining 10 percent of the funds will support a community-based project with Amref Health Africa, which will strengthen healthcare worker capacity and enhance home-based care.”

The repatriation of the millions comes in the wake of a sharp decline in infections and hospital admissions in recent weeks, which made the Kenyan government to relax coronavirus restrictions, lifting requirements for compulsory wearing of face masks in open places and ending quarantine measures.

The asset seizure proceedings and judgment offer a detailed breakdown of the goings-on in the secret account and a rare glimpse of the extent to which Mr Gichuru and Mr Okemo benefited from their systematic bribery scheme.

The scheme was executed through Windward Trading Ltd — the entity through which Mr Gichuru received hefty kickbacks to award suppliers lucrative tenders during his two-decade tenure at the helm of Kenya Power that ended in 2003.

The secret accounts were also unearthed by Mr Gichuru’s messy divorce case where his wife lifted the lid on his hitherto secretive offshore accounts, prompting Jersey authorities to further investigate the matter.

Windward on February 24, 2016, pleaded guilty to one count of possessing proceeds of crime and three counts of acquiring profits from criminal conduct.

A court in Jersey issued a warrant for the arrest of Mr Gichuru and Mr Okemo on April 20, 2011, but the two have challenged the move through multiple legal suits in Kenyan courts.

The Supreme Court is set to hear and determine whether the two should be extradited after the Court of Appeal quashed an earlier ruling granting the government permission to do so.

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