Couple In US Charged With Swazuri Fails To Bar Hearing

by Lawyer Alex

The High Court has rejected an application by a couple residing in the US to stop the hearing of a case in which it is charged together with former National Land Commission (NLC) boss Muhammad Swazuri.

Justice John Onyiego said Francis Kibaru Karanja and his wife Martha Wairimu Waithaka have never pleaded to the charges and they will not suffer any prejudice if the criminal proceedings continue.

“For those reasons, I am not persuaded that the intended application will be rendered nugatory as the criminal proceedings are at the preliminary stage, given its history and intervention of coronavirus,” the judge said.

The couple has challenged its prosecution, saying it was malicious, illegal and made in bad faith.

They are accused of conspiring to commit economic crime after they sold a house in Nairobi’s Thome Estate worth Sh42.5 million to Sostenah Ogero Taracha and his wife Dr Salome Munubi, a former director at NLC.

The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission alleged that part of the money they received from selling a house to Mr Taracha was under investigations. They sold the five-bedroom house in 2018 and the EACC said the couple ought to have inquired the source of the money before accepting to be used as a conduit for cleaning illegally acquired money.

But they argued they had no idea that the money was tied to crime and were shocked to learn that they were to face charges for selling a property genuinely and in good faith.

Justice Onyiego agreed that they had an arguable case and directed them to file the main application, challenging their prosecution within one week. The judge, however, declined to stop the trial before the chief magistrate.

At some point, the couple had proposed to refund Sh9,050,000 and paid Sh1 million to EACC. The negotiations broke down before they decided to quash their charges.

EACC and DPP through Roselyn Odipo argued that they have never taken plea and they will not suffer any prejudice if the criminal case is not stopped.

Investigations by the Commission established that Mr Taracha used part corrupt money to purchase the house.

Prof Swazuri and 21 others have denied charges including abuse of office, financial misconduct, fraudulent acquisition of public funds and money laundering, over the irregular compensation for a parcel of land in Mombasa to construct the Southern Bypass and the Kipevu Terminal link road in October 2013.

The Kenya National Highway Authority (KeNHA) had requested NLC to acquire land. A valuation was undertaken which showed the value of the land in 2015 was Sh34.5 million and an award was made to Tornado Carriers Limited for the sum which they rejected forcing Prof Swazuri to order a fresh valuation.

The team returned a staggering figure of Sh109.7 million for the same parcel of land in January 2017. KeNHA remitted the amount to NLC.

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