Ekeza Sacco founder Gakuyo charged with Sh1 billion fraud

Bishop David Kariuki Ngari alias Gakuyo, founder of Ekeza Sacco has been charged with conspiring to defraud members of the public of over Sh1 billion. Richard Munguti | Nation Media Group

Controversial televangelist David Kariuki Ngari alias Gakuyo has been charged with conspiring to defraud members of the public of over Sh1 billion on the pretext that he was able to invest in real estate and the money market.

Mr Ngari, who is the founder of Ekeza Sacco, was arraigned Monday before Milimani Senior Resident Magistrate Benmark Ekhubi.

He denied 12 counts of conspiracy to defraud and obtain money through pretences and was released on a cash bail of Sh10 million. He was also ordered to surrender his passport to the court.

State prosecutor Henry Kinyanjui did not oppose the defendant's release on bail.

However, Mr Kinyanjui asked the court to consider the matter as of great public interest.

Indications are that further charges may be laid against the accused as investigations continue.

Defence lawyers Mwenda Njagi, Danstan Omari and Njiru Ndegwa urged the court to release the accused on reasonable bail conditions.

"Your honour, bishops have no money, they live on tithes and offerings, his fellow parishioners will contribute to his release on bail," Mr Omari argued.

But Mr Kinyanjui countered that individual Kenyans had lost their hard-earned money.

The Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) through Corporal Bernard Gikandi had sought a court order to detain him for four days to complete investigations into the fraud in which over members of the Ekeza Sacco lost Sh1,053,746,094 between 2015 and 2018.

Mr Gikandi of the DCI's Financial Investigations Unit made the application through the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions seeking to detain the accused at Muthaiga Police Station.

Senior Resident Magistrate Benmark Ekhubi granted the orders despite opposition from the suspect's team of lawyers.

Mr Gakuyo had opposed the application through his 10 lawyers led by Mr Ndegwa and Mr Omari.

The DCI detective told the court that over Sh1 billion was stolen by the bishop and companies linked to him from over 50,000 victims, who were defrauded in the scheme that has been under investigation since March 2019.

"The investigation is at an advanced stage and the defendant (Gakuyo) is likely to be charged in several cases involving more than 50,000 victims," Mr Gikandi said.

"There has been a public outcry from the said victims and other affected persons over the funds lost and/or allegedly stolen by the respondent (Gakuyo) and companies associated with him in view of the closure of the offices of the respondent and the said companies," he said.

The companies are Ekeza Sacco Society Limited, Gakuyo Real Estate and Gakuyo Investors Club.

He said Mr Gakuyo was aware of the ongoing investigations and his pending arraignment over the said investigations, adding that he was a flight risk because he was arrested at the immigration desk at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport while attempting to fly to Zambia.

He produced a boarding pass to prove this.

But Mr Gakuyo's lawyers said the investigation had been ongoing for five years and he had been available to investigators during that time.

He was arrested at JKIA on Wednesday, February 21, 2024, just before he was to fly to Lusaka, Zambia.

The senior resident magistrate also allowed Mr Kinyanjui to summon Ekeza Sacco officials to answer to charges on behalf of the co-operative.

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