Extradition for Chris Okemo and Samuel Gichuru begins
Two prominent Kenyans fighting extradition to Jersey Island to answer money laundering and corruption charges were Wednesday evening facing prospects of arrest and handover to the UK.
One time Minister for Energy Chris Okemo and former Kenya Power and Lighting Company’s influential chief executive Samuel Gichuru, appeared Jersey-bound after Director of Public Prosecutions Keriako Tobiko, sanctioned their arrest, detention, and extradition. Both face fraud charges for Sh900 million and are accused of having received bribes from international companies between 1999 and 2002.
With his action, it now means the suspects could be arrested before the hearing on why they should not be extradited starts. It is at the hearing on Monday that the officers from Tobiko’s office are expected to battle with the suspect’s advocates.
This means the two former powerful personalities in the Kanu regime could soon serve as examples to Kenyans on how international networks against global corruption works. The lesson would be it might take long but one would be brought to account for their actions while in public office. But it would all depend on whether Tobiko has his way in court.
In what could be a bold decision by Tobiko, whose appointment was controversial because of adverse claims against him during public hearings, the DPP said he had no objections against the request for arrest and rendition of the two.
Most significantly, in his letter to Milimani Law Courts Chief Magistrate, titled ‘Authority to Proceed’, Tobiko referred to Okemo, who is the Nambale MP and Gichuru as “fugitives”.
Surrender the suspects
The move comes barely 24 hours after the British High Commissioner to Kenya Rob Macaire said his Government was keen to see the process taken forward “seriously and expeditiously”.
Tobiko’s letter fulfilled a recommendation by a team of experts he set up following the instructions of Attorney General Amos Wako to evaluate documents given by Jersey Island’s judicial authority to support request for the extraditions. The documents were in 13 bundles and it is after their analysis that Tobiko took the decision.
Tobiko exercised powers bestowed upon him by the Constitution in asking the Chief Magistrate’s court to issue warrants of arrest for the suspects.
One thing stood out: The speed of Tobiko’s action defied experiences with similar matters in local courts, especially on those touching on high-raking and wealthy personalities.
The charges against them are based on Section 7(1) of the Extradition (Commonwealth Countries) Act, Chapter 77 of the Laws of Kenya — read together with Section 7 of the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution.
“I authorise you to proceed and issue a warrant for the arrest and detention of the said fugitives in accordance with Section 8 of the aforesaid Act,” wrote Tobiko.
In the letter filed in court as an application, Tobiko said the request to surrender the suspects was made to him by a competent judicial authority of the United Kingdom on behalf of the Island of Jersey, through diplomatic channels.
He assigned four State Counsel – Edwin Okello, Dorcas Obuo, James Warui and Victor Mule – to handle the matter in court. Armed with the letter and a bundle of documents, the four arrived at the Milimani Law Courts, a few minutes before noon.
The State counsel consulted with Senior Principal Magistrate Grace Macharia in her chambers, before she moved to open court. Okello told the court the application was from the DPP, giving the court authority to proceed and issue warrants of arrest.
“I seek the court’s directions on whether to argue the application right now,” he said. However, the magistrate ordered the matter to be heard on Monday morning.
Earlier, the magistrate stopped the suspects’ advocate, Anthony Macharia from participating in
the case, on grounds that it was still at the exparte (for one party) stage.
Macharia said he got information via electronic message that arrest warrants were being sought for his clients.
In the application, the DPP’s team is to rely on 13 bundles of documents mailed through the UK diplomatic bag, in support of it case.
They include detective Lee Turner’s copy of affidavit containing details of how the two suspects allegedly used fake identities to obtain the money, as kickbacks in a KPLC tender.
According to the documents sent to Kenya by the bailiff and the Chief Justice of the Island of Jersey, Okemo and Gichuru are accused of abusing their offices by using proxy companies to squander public funds over 10 years ago.
Turner said Gichuru is wanted for nine offences while Okemo has six. All the offences touch on money laundering. The offences are concealing proceeds of criminal conduct, transferring the proceeds of criminal conduct, assisting another to retain the benefit of criminal conduct, acquiring the proceeds of criminal conduct, and fraud. Others are conspiracy to receive property obtained by unlawful conduct outside Jersey and receiving property obtained by unlawful conduct.
In one of the counts, Gichuru is charged that between July 1, 1999, and June 28, 2002, he concealed and disguised property, namely funds credited to Winward Trading Limited, that, in whole or in part, represented his proceeds of criminal conduct, namely misconduct in a public office, fraud, money laundering, and receiving property obtained by criminal conduct.
Turner claimed Gichuru used the money sent to his account for personal expenditure, while Okemo kept the money in his Jersey accounts for some time before investing it with organised financial institutions.
He claimed foreign contractors made payments into the bank accounts of a Jersey company, Winward Trading Ltd.
“Gichuru was the beneficial owner of Winward, and he controlled it through agents. From there the money was distributed according to instructions given by Gichuru’s agents,” the detective claimed. This, he said, included payments to the personal bank accounts of Okemo and Gichuru. The officers from Tobiko’s office are also to rely on copies of warrants of arrest issued by Jersey Island’s CJ on April 20, and an affidavit sworn by Detective Constable Mark Adrian Grieve.
If Tobiko’s staff succeed in convincing the court, Okemo and Gichuru would be the second batch of Kenyans whom the magistrate’s court would have issued extradition orders against.
The first to be extradited were two businesswomen who were taken the US to face charges of drug trafficking in 2003. They were Dorothy Manju Henry and Susan Kaloki Nzioki. The then Kibera Court Magistrate, Catherine Mwangi issued the orders, following a successful application by Senior Principal State Counsel Horace Okumu.
In 2006, the State obtained a warrant of arrest against businessman Keitan Somaia to answer charges of theft in Dar-Es-Salaam, Tanzania