, NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 12 – Suspended Supreme Court Judge Philip Tunoi, through lawyer Fred Ngatia, on Tuesday told the tribunal investigating allegations that he took a Sh200 million bribe that his accuser, Geoffrey Kiplagat, indeed called him but, under the assumed persona of Nicholas Biwott – popularly known as the ‘Total Man.’
Ngatia in cross-examining Kiplagat claimed that the, “inappropriate contact” that had been established between Tunoi and Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero’s associates (from whom he’s alleged to have received the bribe) was in fact Kiplagat calling Tunoi “pretending” to be Biwott – an influential member of former President Daniel arap Moi’s government.
The bribery claim by Kiplagat led to Tunoi’s suspension by President Uhuru Kenyatta on the recommendation of the Judicial Service Commission.
“You were lying that you were Nicholas Biwott and as soon as you know you are not Nicholas Biwott (sic) he’ll put you off,” Ngatia accused.
Kiplagat took exception to the accusation accusing Tunoi of being the liar in denying any knowledge of him.
“That one is a disgusting observation,” he said. “You see this whole set of people in what you have painted as episodes, these are people we interacted and these are people who said they don’t know me all of them. So I thought the judge would tell even you alone the truth as his lead counsel. There are some people you tell the truth in some matters so that they can help you.”
Kiplagat also denied being a “close contact” of Kidero saying contrary to Ngatia’s assertions, his running for elective office in 2013 on an Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) ticket did not automatically translate to his receiving money from him for his campaigns.
“You don’t expect me to contest on Inkatha Freedom Party of South Africa… or CCM… or is it (ODM) an illegal party?” he posed to laughter.
Through his cross-examination Ngatia also sought to prove Tunoi’s assertion that Kiplagat’s “fiction, thriller that should never have seen the light of day,” was the consequence of his refusal to retire at 70 years of age as demanded by the Judicial Service Commission.
And in which effort he cast aspersions on fellow Senior Counsel Paul Muite’s motives for allegedly advising Kiplagat to swear an affidavit on the bribery claims rather than report alleged threats to his life to the “proper authorities” – Muite being JSC’s legal counsel in the retirement case.
Ngatia also questioned why Kiplagat’s affidavit became public knowledge a whole year after it was sworn and why of all the commissioners of oaths, Kiplagat chose a lawyer, Issa Mansour, representing the JSC in the retirement dispute with Tunoi.
Kiplagat’s response was that he had no idea how the affidavit that was “resting” came to the attention of Chief Justice Willy Mutunga whom, he testified, sent an emissary in the form of an “Ombudsman Bidali” a year later to find out if he wanted the matter pursued.
Ngatia also sought and succeeded in pinning down Kiplagat on the exact dimensions of the bribe-containing-briefcase he claims changed hands.
The briefcase, Kiplagat testified, was “approximately” 20 cms wide, 75 cms in height and 35 cms long.
A briefcase the size of which, Ngatia demanded needed to be “scientifically” tested by the tribunal to determine the plausibility of it fitting through the window of a Mercedes Benz and being passed back through the gap between the two front seats.
Ngatia said his client was also willing to resign should it be proved he bought two farms with the ill-gotten gains he’s alleged to have received.
The tribunal consisting of Chairman Sharad Rao, Retired Justice Jonathan Havelock, Justice Roselyne Korir, Judith Guserwa, James Gacoka, Abdirashid Hussein and George Wakukha was scheduled to hold a status conference on Tuesday afternoon to decide when Kiplagat will be recalled once his testimony has been “scientifically” verified.