Corruption cases against President William Ruto’s allies worth close to Sh30 billion have either been withdrawn or quashed in the recent past, turning the spotlight on the prosecution and investigative agencies in the fight against graft.
The cases have fallen in quick succession, raising questions as to whether there was pressure to charge allies linked to Dr Ruto or whether there has been an interference with the role of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Noordin Haji.
During the campaigns ahead of the August 9 elections, Dr Ruto claimed that his close allies were targeted for political persecution or were being intimidated so that they could abandon him.
Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua’s Sh7.3 billion case has since been withdrawn, while businessman Humphrey Kariuki is a happy man after the Sh17 billion tax evasion charges against him and co-accused were quashed by the High Court.
Mr Kariuki’s factory, which had been shut down by the police, has also been reopened.
This week, the anti-corruption court acquitted former Kenya Pipeline Company managing director Joe Sang, who was facing charges related to the Sh1.9 billion Kisumu Oil Jetty for lack of evidence.
The DPP is also considering withdrawing Sh2.5 billion in tax evasion charges against Mary Wambui Muigai, another ally of President Ruto.
The President claimed that the State agencies that were being used to fight him included the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI), the Assets Recovery Agency (ARA) and the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA).
Mr Gachagua, who was then serving as Mathira MP, was charged with corruption and money laundering and had more than Sh200 million forfeited to the State.
He was charged in July 2021 together with nine other people and companies.
At one of the political rallies held at Dr Ruto’s Karen office, Nakuru governor Susan Kihika, then serving as a senator, accused the DCI boss of “coming up with imaginary cases against those allied to Dr Ruto" to further political interests.
Dr Ruto then sought to assure his allies that things would be okay once his Kenya Kwanza coalition took the reins of power.
A number of those who stuck with him have since seen their cases collapse or withdrawn.
While withdrawing the Sh7.3 billion graft charges against Deputy President Gachagua, senior principal magistrate Victor Wakumile said the judicial system should never be used as a stop-gap measure or even a doormat.
“There is a need to respect institutions. Recommendations are necessary at whatever level; more so when a criminal process seems to overtly offend Article 50(2) of the Constitution of Kenya which provides that every accused person has a right to a fair trial,” the magistrate said while allowing the application to withdraw the charges.
The investigating officer Obadiah Kuria told the anti-corruption court magistrate that there were some areas in the case that were not adequately covered because he was not given sufficient time to complete the probe.
The charges stated that Mr Gachagua received Sh7.3 billion in his three bank accounts at Rafiki Microfinance Bank, which was allegedly deposited between 2013 and 2020.
The prosecution alleged that the transactions were meant to conceal the movements of the money believed to be proceeds of crime.
Mr Kariuki was facing tax evasion charges amounting to Sh17 billion. His premises were also shut down as the police accused him of being in possession of uncustomed goods.
The case was quashed by the High Court judge Anthony Mrima over the move by the DPP to allow the KRA to prosecute the businessman.
Section 107 of the Tax Procedures Act (TPA) allows the KRA Commissioner-General to appear in court personally or appoint any of his officers to appear on his behalf, subject to the directions of the DPP.
Justice Mrima ruled that whereas the KRA can investigate any offences relating to tax laws, it cannot prosecute the offences in court.
And this week, former Kenya Pipeline Company managing director Joe Sang and five other ex-managers were acquitted by an anti-corruption court saying there was no evidence to support the charges.
Mr Sang and his co-accused had been charged with abuse of office, engaging in a project without prior planning and wilful failure to comply with guidelines relating to the management of public funds over the Sh1.9 billion Kisumu Oil Jetty.
The court found that the procurement was not flawed as alleged and that the project was undertaken within the planned financial budget.
The magistrate said the project was planned in 2006 and the same was contained in KPC’s strategic plan for 2009/2010 and 2011.
“I find that all prosecution witnesses were unanimous that the construction of Kisumu Oil Jetty was indeed planned before construction and way back in 2006 before most of the accused persons were employed by Kenya Pipeline Company,” said the magistrate.
The DPP has also signalled the intention of the KRA to withdraw Sh2.5 billion tax evasion charges against Mary Wangui Mungai, who has since been appointed as the chairperson of the Communications Authority of Kenya.
Mr Haji asked for 30 days to review the KRA’s decision and evidence after telling the court that he received a letter on November 23, indicating that negotiations for an out-of-court settlement were being considered.
Other than the charges, Ms Wambui’s bank accounts had been frozen and her travel outside the country restricted.
Ms Mungai and her daughter Purity Njoki were charged with tax evasion in December together with their company Purma Holdings Ltd.