Kethi Kilonzo faces fraud charge over voter registration saga

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Nairobi, Kenya: Police investigations into the controversy surrounding lawyer Kethi Kilonzo’s registration as a voter are almost complete and detectives say they have a case.

It raises the spectre of fraud charges being laid against one of Kenya’s brightest young lawyers, who just weeks ago, was seen as the poster child of the next generation of the country’s lawyers.

Kethi was Wednesday expected to record a statement with the Criminal Investigations Department, according to police sources, but she had not turned up by 4pm.

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This is the latest development in the fallout over the recently concluded Makueni Senate by-election that her brother Mutula Kilonzo Jnr won by a landslide.

On Wednesday, a senior investigating officer close to the investigations told The Standard, “…there is a case so far,” adding that the file will be forwarded to the Director of Public Prosecutions Keriako Tobiko later next week.

“The probe is ongoing and we expected Kethi today (Wednesday) to record a statement. We will send the file to DPP with recommendations later next week. There is a case so far,” said the detective who declined to be named as he is not authorised to speak about the case.

Should the CID recommend prosecution, it would stir the controversy that stalked the lead up to the by-election that degenerated into a showdown betweenCORD and Jubilee.

Serious claim

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission called in the police after officials claimed the registration slip that Kethi presented as proof of registration as a voter had been stolen from the commission.

IEBC chairman Issack Hassan wrote to CID director Ndegwa Muhoro inviting him to investigate the saga.

In the run up to the by-election occasioned by the death of her father Mutula Kilonzo, Kethi had been cleared by the returning officer in Makueni. But her nomination was contested before an IEBC tribunal tasked with arbitrating electoral disputes and revoked.

During the hearings, IEBC Director of Voter Registration and Electoral Operations Immaculate Kassait claimed the slip was one of five missing from the booklet and the matter was already under probe.

IEBC made a serious claim that the slip used by Kethi for nomination was stolen from a booklet in which only one other slip had been used to register former President Kibaki.

It is the basis upon which the IEBC team, chaired by Commissioner Thomas Letangule, ordered IEBC to investigate how the slip was acquired particularly because Kethi stood her ground that the slip was officially issued to her during registration last year.

IEBC Nominations Dispute Resolution Committee consequently revoked her nomination, but Kethi and the Wiper party (under CORD) that nominated her challenged the decision at the High Court.

A three-judge bench ruled against Kethi’s petition to participate in Makueni’s senatorial by-election but allowed the party to nominate a fresh candidate. The judges said there was no evidence suggesting Wiper was privy to information Kethi was not eligible for nomination.

The Elections Act requires a party that knowingly nominates a candidate not qualified by law be barred from participating in the election.

Under the Penal Code, forging any judicial or official document or presenting it officially, if proven, attracts up to seven years’ imprisonment.

At the height of the controversy, the Jubilee coalition urged CORD to take responsibility for aiding their by-election aspirant commit election fraud.

Desperate attempt

Led by Majority Leader in the Senate Prof Kithure Kindiki, Jubilee rebuffed claims by former Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka that TNA had deleted Kethi’s name from the IEBC register, terming the utterances as a diversionary tactic to the serious crime of electoral fraud facing their candidate.

“We are shocked by the malicious and alarmist statement made by Kalonzo, which we feel is a desperate attempt to divert attention from the serious crime of fraud, forgery and myriad other electoral offences which have been exposed,” said Kindiki.

He said the CORD leadership should explain how security documents in the custody of IEBC were found with Kethi, even as they called on investigators to dig into the crime and prosecute those responsible for theft.

The Jubilee senators said Kethi was a victim of intimidation and coercion by CORD leaders who eventually dragged her into crime; she now faces the possibility of a jail term.

“In Kenya, we have a crime called handling stolen items and it is upon those found with the items to explain how they got hold of them,” said Prof Kindiki. “The onus of proof is not on TNA and not evenIEBC. It is on the person found in possession of the documents.”-standardmedia.co.ke

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