, NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 15 – Higher Education Minister William Ruto faces the greatest test of his political career after the Constitutional Court ruled that he should stand trial in a Sh96 million fraud case he is facing, which could have serious ramifications.
The minister had moved to court after the case was instituted saying it was a violation of his fundamental rights but on Friday, the Constitutional court ruled that if Mr Ruto had any issues to object to, he should raise them before the trial court.
It is alleged that Mr Ruto fraudulently obtained the money from a former Kenya Pipeline Company manager Hellen Njue, by pretending he was in a position to sell land at Ngong Forest to the Kenya Pipeline Company.
"There is no proof that the applicant\’s rights have been violated or breached in any way. For that reason we are unable to grant any prayers sought and send back the case to the trial court for hearing and determination,\’\’ ruled the three-judge bench.
Judges Jeanne Gacheche, Roselyn Wendo and Leonard Njagi declined to end the criminal charges against Mr Ruto saying there was no basis for terminating the case.
The judges dismissed the minister\’s claims that the case was instituted against him in order to finish him politically saying this cannot be justified just "because he is an MP and a Cabinet Minister.\’\’
The judges said that the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission and the Attorney General had reasonable grounds to charge the Higher Education minister. They observed that Mr Ruto\’s constitutional reference was trying to pre-empt the prosecution\’s case, which can only be determined through a trial.
The case is bound to affect his political career according to legal experts.
According to the Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes Act, a public officer who is charged with corruption or economic crime shall be suspended – at half pay – with effect from the date of the charge. But the suspended officer who is on half pay shall continue to receive the full amount of any allowances.
"The public officer ceases to be suspended if the proceedings against him are discontinued or if he is acquitted," the Act says.
The public officer also ceases to be suspended if the conviction is overturned on appeal.
"The public officer shall be dismissed if the time period for appealing against the conviction expires without the conviction being appealed; or the conviction is upheld on appeal," the Act states.
Mr Ruto who has been away in Japan on official duty over the past two weeks had wanted the High Court to determine whether a commercial transaction involving public land and for which titles were issued with the approval of a Head of State could amount to a criminal act.
In the case, the Eldoret North MP is accused alongside retired Presidents Moi\’s former aide Joshua Kulei and Baringo Central Member of Parliament Sammy Mwaita.
In June, President Mwai Kibaki suspended Roads Assistant Minister Wilfred Machage after he was charged with hate speech.