Economy

Okemo, Gichuru extradition triggers fresh AG, Haji fight

okemo gichuru

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

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Summary

  • Appearing before a bench of five judges of the Supreme Court yesterday, Mr Kariuki said the proceedings brought against the duo were instituted without written authority from him, hence cannot be implemented.
  • A court in Jersey, which is part of the British Isles, issued a warrant for the arrest of Mr Gichuru and Mr Okemo on April 20, 2011 – but the two successfully challenged their extradition.
  • The duo is wanted to face 53 counts linked to “commissions” paid by companies to win Kenya Power tenders and held in a Jersey account in foreign currencies: £4.45 million; $3.2 million and kr790,000 (totaling Sh1.04 billion at current exchange rates).

Attorney-General Kihara Kariuki has renewed his fight with the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Noordin Haji, over plans to extradite former Cabinet minister Chris Okemo and ex-Kenya Power CEO Samuel Gichuru to Jersy Island to face theft and money laundering charges.

Appearing before a bench of five judges of the Supreme Court yesterday, Mr Kariuki said the proceedings brought against the duo were instituted without written authority from him, hence cannot be implemented.

A court in Jersey, which is part of the British Isles, issued a warrant for the arrest of Mr Gichuru and Mr Okemo on April 20, 2011 – but the two successfully challenged their extradition.

The duo is wanted to face 53 counts linked to “commissions” paid by companies to win Kenya Power tenders and held in a Jersey account in foreign currencies: £4.45 million; $3.2 million and kr790,000 (totaling Sh1.04 billion at current exchange rates), according to Jersey court papers.

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

Through Emmanuel Bitta, the AG Thursday said the mandate to extradite Kenyans wanted for offences in foreign countries falls under his office and not the DPP’s.

He said extradition is not criminal and entails unique proceedings that cannot be handled through the DPP’s office on behalf of the nation.

The State’s chief legal adviser said the decision of the Court of Appeal was correct and that the DPP had not demonstrated why he wanted it reversed by the Supreme Court.

Mr Kariuki opposed the appeal filed by the DPP to challenge a decision of the Court of Appeal for stripping his office of powers to extradite suspects wanted outside the country.

The request to extradite Mr Okemo and Mr Gichuru was forwarded to the DPP when it was a department in the AG’s office on June 6, 2011 by the British High Commission.

Before the request, the Jersey court had issued warrants for the arrest of the two on April 8, 2010, and April 20, 2011.

Mr Okemo was the Minister for Energy between 1991 and 2001, while Mr Gichuru was the KPLC Managing Director between 1984 and February 2013.

Mr Okemo was charged in the Royal Court of Jersey with 13 counts relating to the transactions in the accounts on July 1, 1999, and 2001.

On the other hand, Gichuru faced 40 counts for offences allegedly committed under Jersey law between 1991 and June 28, 2002.

In 2018, the Court of Appeal ruled that the DPP had no mandate over extradition proceedings. The DPP moved to the Supreme Court to challenge the decision.

Through senior assistant DPP Victor Mule, Mr Haji argued that extradition proceedings are criminal and therefore fall under his mandate.

Mr Okemo’s lawyer, Fred Ngatia, supported the AG, arguing that the DPP has no power to institute extradition proceedings.

Mr Gichuru, through senior counsel Waweru Gatonye, said that extradition is merely administrative and that it is a matter of foreign relations conducted by the executive arm of the government, which the DPP is not part of.

The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission took a neutral position.

Mr Gichuru and Mr Okemo face a jail term of up to 14 years each if they are extradited to Jersey and found guilty of the racketeering charges preferred against them.

Kenyan authorities have never opened criminal proceedings against the duo, whose bribery scheme cost taxpayers billions of shillings and hurt the development of power plants — ushering in power blackouts and expensive electricity.

The Supreme Court said it would notify parties on the ruling date.