The judge under investigation for helping to stop criminal proceedings against Goldenberg architect Kamlesh Pattni is among the judicial officers who are slated for transfer to new stations in January.
High Court judge Joseph Mbalu Mutava’s transfer to Kericho from Nairobi has set the Law Society of Kenya (LSK), which has been applying pressure to have him investigated over his handling of Goldenberg cases, on a collision path with the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) chaired by Chief Justice Willy MutungA.
LSK is demanding that the judge be suspended pending investigations into his conduct but the commission insists the transfer has nothing to do with his conduct.
“The Chief Justice executed a total overhaul of postings that responded to the caseload around the country,” said a source at Dr Mutunga’s office who declined to be named because he is not authorised to speak on behalf of the CJ.
However, the LSK insisted that the allegations made against Justice Mutava were serious and needed immediate action from the JSC.
“The Judiciary should by now have suspended judge Mutava and commenced investigations to determine whether accusations levelled against him merit constituting a tribunal,” said LSK chairman Eric Mutua.
The list of judges who will change stations in January includes Justice Aggrey Muchelule who moves to Kisii from Mombasa and Justice Ruth Korir who moves from Kisii to Nairobi’s Milimani Courts.
Mr Mutua said LSK was in the process of compiling accusations levelled against Justices Mutava and Alfred Mabeya who the society accuses of subverting the course of justice.
The Office of the Chief Justice has transferred a number of judges to boost capacity in the newly-established stations and to fill gaps left by seven High Court judges recently promoted to the Court of Appeal. One judge has since died.
Also in the list of transfers are 15 land and environment judges. Eight new judges have also been deployed to various parts of the country to boost capacity and help deal with case backlogs.
Mr Justice Mutava is accused of assisting Mr Pattni to stop criminal proceedings against him relating to the theft of public funds. He did not respond to our questions on the matter.
The judge caught the attention of his accusers after he issued orders barring criminal proceedings against Mr Pattni in a case related to the Goldenberg scandal.
Goldenberg is Kenya’s biggest financial scam in which the government lost billions of shillings in false export compensation schemes under the stewardship of Mr Pattni.
The Judicial Service Commission launched investigations into Mr Justice Mutava’s conduct after a Nairobi law firm, Havi and Company Advocates, filed a petition on behalf of the International Centre for Policy and Conflict seeking to have him removed from office.
The judges on transfer have been directed not to hear any new cases to avoid the pile up of “heard in part cases” or cases that not concluded.
Mr Mutua said he had received additional complaints against Judge Mabeya and that LSK was preparing to act on the accusations.
Mr Pattni, a controversial businessman, rose to infamy through the Goldenberg scheme he hatched and executed between 1991 and 1993.
Kenya is estimated to have lost up to Sh100 billion in public funds through the scandal.
Mr Pattni purported to export gold and diamond jewellery for which his company, Goldenberg International, received billions of shillings in compensation.
The money was lost in the billions of shillings that Goldenberg was paid for earning the country the much-needed foreign exchange. It was, however, discovered that Mr Pattni had used forged paperwork to process the payments in connivance with unscrupulous senior civil servants.
A former Economic Secretary at the Treasury, Terrence Ryan, estimates that it will take three generations for the economy to recover from Mr Pattni’s rip-off.
A commission of inquiry appointed in 2003 to unravel the scandal found that Mr Pattni was the mastermind and central beneficiary of the scheme.