Landmark court cases of 2019
In 2019, government officials, politicians, business owners and individuals were paraded in courts to answer to charges ranging from corruption, tax evasion, drug trafficking and even murder.
Some of this cases were heard in Kenya while one was heard in America.
Here are among the cases in 2019 that caught the attention of Kenyans and media:
1 Treasury CS Henry Rotich and PS Kamau Thugge
On June 22, 2019 The Director of Public Prosecution Noordin Haji ordered the arrest of senior government officials including Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich over fraud linked to two multi-purpose dams in Kerio Valley. After spending a night in police custody, the CS and his Permanent Secretary Kamau Thugge were released on Sh50 million bond and a surety of a similar amount or Sh15 million cash bail. The case is still ongoing and the CS remains the most high profile government official to be taken to court over graft.
2 County Bosses arrested over graft
Samburu Governor Moses Kasaine Lenolkulal was the first governor to be arrested over corruption. He was arrested in April over suspected Sh84 million fraud at the county.
Others the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission detectives were interested with were his deputy, county secretary, chief finance officer, and former chief officer in charge of environment and several other chief officers. The 14 suspects are linked to Sh84.7-million fuel-supply scandal in which Oryx Service Station, which police believe is owned, owned by Mr Kasaine and Mr Ndathi, was given a tender to supply the county government against the law. The Governor was ordered not to access his office.
Kiambu Governor Ferdinand Waititu was arrested alongside his wife Susan and five others after the Director of Public Prosecution ordered for their arrest over Sh580 million irregular tender.
After spending four days at Industrial police station, Waititu was released on a Sh15 million cash bail after pleading not guilty to the charges.
The governor had spent four days in police custody after failing to raise the cash. Chief Magistrate Lawrence Mugambi ordered the Governor not to access his office for the period the case was ongoing. Waititu’s case is still ongoing.
On December 6, 2019, the DPP ordered for the arrest of Nairobi Governor Mike Mbuvi Sonko and other county officials and business owners over the loss of Sh357 million county funds. Mr Sonko is accused of irregularly awarding tenders to his close aides, forging documents and misappropriating county funds. The Nairobi Governor had on several occasions visited the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission headquarters after he was summoned. The agency has been investigating the governor over alleged past criminal records. The Nairobi governor had earlier sought court orders to stop the investigations but the case was dismissed. Recently prison authorities accused him of escaping from a maximum facility 20 years ago.
3 Kenya Revenue Authority Workers
In May, KRA interdicted 75 staff linked to bribery and tax evasion and handed them to the police. The staff, who work in the domestic tax department and customs and border control, were accused of helping to fraudulently clear cargo and alter tax returns to help people dodge tax payments. In July, Haji approved the prosecution of 69 of them to be charged with abetting tax evasion and corruption. According to the DCI, preliminary investigations established that the suspects were “part and parcel of a criminal enterprise within KRA” that has seen Kenyans lose billions of uncollected taxes.
4 Akasha brothers
Baktash and Ibrahim Akasha had for long presided over an international drug-trafficking ring that netted them a fortune. It was used to finance luxurious lifestyles in Mombasa and to systematically bribe a host of Kenyan government officials — until they were caught and taken to court in February 2017. Both would plead guilty the following year to multiple felonies. Baktash, 43, was sentenced in August to 25 years in prison for his crimes. He was recently sent to the Federal Correctional Institution in Oakdale, Louisiana, a state in southern USA. Ibrahim 30 will be sentenced in January.
5 Lawyer Willy Kimani’s murder case
In October, the court heard chilling details of how Human Rights Lawyer Willy Kimani, his client Josephat Mwenda and taxi driver Joseph Muiruri were murdered by police officers. In his written statement, Peter Ngugi, a police informer, revealed how the murder of the three was planned and mercilessly executed by four police officers from Mlolongo Administration Police post. Ngugi says lawyer Willy Kimani, his client and the taxi driver were killed by police officer Fredrick Leliman who suffocated them with a polythene bag and strangled them with a rope, before dumping their bodies in a river. Willy 32, went missing along with his taxi driver and a client after a court appointment in June 2016 only for the bodies to be found a week later at Ol Donyo Sabuk River outside of Nairobi.
6 LGBT ruling
On 24 May, 2019, Kenya’s high court upheld a law banning gay sex, keeping same sex relations punishable by 14 years in jail. The unanimous decision of the three-judge bench as read out by Judge Charles Mwita was that: the impugned provisions of the Penal Code are not vague and disclose an offence. The petitioners have failed to prove that the provisions are discriminatory. There is no evidence to show that the petitioners were discriminated and their rights violated as they sought healthcare. They also added that gay sex clashed with broader, traditional moral values encapsulated in Kenya’s constitution. Campaigners who filed the petition to decriminalise gay sex argued that the law violated Kenya’s 2010 constitution, which guarantees equality, dignity and privacy for all citizens.
7 Age of consent
In March this year, the Court of Appeal proposed a law change to lower the age of consent to 16 years leaving Kenyans with divided opinion. Three judges, Roselyn Nambuye, Daniel Musinga and Patrick Kiage, ruled that time was ripe for the country to consider changing the Sexual Offences Act, citing lengthy jail terms imposed on young men convicted of defilement. However, in June Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i said that the government would not consider lowering the sexual consent age to 16.
8 Company bosses arrested over tax evasion
In August, the owners of alcohol giant Keroche Industries Ltd Tabitha Karanja and her husband Joseph Karanja were arrested after the brewer was accused of Sh14 billion tax evasion. They were held after the Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji ordered their detention. Mr Haji ordered the two to be presented in court to answer to 10 counts of tax fraud committed between January 2015 and June 2019. They were later released on cash bail after denying all the 10 counts of charges relating to tax fraud. The case is still ongoing.
In the same month, business tycoon Humphrey Kariuki was charged with tax evasion. Director of Public Prosecution, Mr Noordin Haji, ordered for his arrest alongside eight others on claims of tax evasion amounting to more than Sh41 billion by Africa Spirits and Wow Beverages in Thika. Mr Kariuki, Wow Beverages directors Stuart Gerald Herd and Robert Thinji Muriithi, and Africa Spirits Directors Peter Njenga Kuria and Geoffrey Kaaria Kinoti Mbombua are facing a total of 21 counts of tax evasion and being in possession of counterfeit excise duty stamps. He was released on a cash bail of Sh11 million with an alternative bond of sh22 million and the case is still ongoing.