Witnesses headache in Anglo Leasing

Mr Bradley Birkenfeld. PHOTO | FILE
Mr Bradley Birkenfeld says he is fretful of insecurity in Kenya.. PHOTO | FILE 

The Anglo Leasing trial has been hit by the absence of witnesses as the prosecution fights to have video link testimonies amid opposition from the defence.

Key international witnesses including Jason Sharman, a professor at Cambridge University, Srinivasan, a resident of Switzerland, and top US whistle blower Bradley Birkenfeld say they cannot attend trial because they are busy and fretful of insecurity in Kenya.

Mr Birkenfeld, 50, who helped expose widespread tax fraud by wealthy Americans using Swiss bank accounts for a reward of $104 million (about Sh9.5 billion), is said to have signed some of the security supplies associated with Anglo leasing contracts.

The prosecution wants to be allowed to have video link evidence for some of its witnesses outside the country, who have declined to testify in local courts.

The accused through their lawyers, are, however, opposed to the application, arguing that Kenya’s criminal law does not support witness testimonies through video link.

The witness hitch look set to further delay the case where former senior government officials and businessmen are accused in connection with multi-billion shilling security tenders that the government has termed irregular.

A previous case fell apart in 2005 because of a lack of evidence.

Failed to appear

High-profile local witnesses, including former Attorney-General and Busia Senator Amos Wako, former anti-corruption czar and retired Justice Aaron Ringera, ex-finance minister Amos Kimunya, Treasury Permanent Secretary Kamau Thugge and director of debt John Murugu failed to make it to court this week as required.

Some like Dr Thugge were tied up with official duty while others said they were busy with Mr Ringera saying he is available in September.

Former Ethics and Governance permanent Secretary John Githongo, has failed to appear four times in the ongoing Anglo Leasing trials.

Magistrate Martha Mutuku yesterday told the prosecution that the regular failure by the witnesses was likely to delay faster disposal of the matter.

The magistrate also took issue with a witness who had requested to testify in September, considering that the court had earlier indicated that the matter should be concluded by August this year.

“It is discouraging that the prosecution keeps seeking for adjournment,” Magistrate Mutuku.

The defence lawyers said failure of witnesses to appear in court was violating the rights of the accused who have been charged and always appear in court.

“It is not our work to force the witnesses to come to court. That is the work of the prosecution,” said lawyer Edward Oonge for the accused.

“We will be opposing the video link application because the Kenya criminal law does not allow witnesses to testify through video link,” he added.

The ruling on the video link application comes up on June 19.

Mr Birkenfeld said security concerns raised by US government over its citizens’ travel to Kenya coupled by his high profile status as whistle-blower cannot allow him to come to Kenya on July 24.