NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 12 – A Nairobi Court has thrown out a fraud case against Eldoret North MP William Ruto, his Baringo Central counterpart Sammy Mwaita and businessman Joshua Kulei involving the sale of land to the Kenya Pipeline Company 10 years ago.
It was the case that led to the suspension of Mr Ruto from the Higher Education docket.
The ruling comes barely a day after Mr Ruto returned from The Hague where he and five other Kenyans appeared before the International criminal Court over the 2008 post-election violence.
The prosecution had called 20 witnesses to the stand but the court ruled that there was not sufficient evidence to place the three on their defence.
"The evidence adduced by the prosecution does not support the particulars of the charges facing the accused persons," Nairobi Chief Magistrate Gilbert Mutembei ruled.
"The prosecution has not proved any prima facie (on the face of it) case against all the accused and I hereby acquit them for lack of evidence."
Mr Ruto, Mr Mwaita and Mr Kulei – who was an aide to retired President Daniel arap Moi – had been accused of fraudulently selling forest land to the Kenya Pipeline Company but the court did not feel there was proof beyond reasonable doubt that they received money from KPC.
In his ruling, Mr Mutembei said there was no evidence that Mr Ruto, Mr Kulei and Mr Mwaita and five companies associated with them received any money from the company. The magistrate also said the prosecution failed to call Hellen Njue, KPC\’s Finance Officer who allegedly released the money to the accused persons.
"The prosecution didn\’t call its star witness Hellen Njue – who purportedly released the money to the accused persons. Therefore the court finds that there is no evidence that Ms Njue released money to the accused," Mr Mutembei ruled.
Through his lawyers, Mr Ruto had asked the court to acquit him without calling him to the witness stand to defend himself.
Immediately after the court\’s pronouncement Mr Ruto addressed the media and said the case was politically motivated and that they shouldn\’t have been dragged to court in the first place. He said it was politically expedient for him to be brought to court but it has taken him close to 10 years for the truth to come out.
"It is absolutely clear to all and sundry that this case was bound to fail from the word go because it was not about criminal justice. It was about political persecution," he said. "It has been clear in my mind all along that this case would fail. And the truth has come out."
He said that all previous attempts to link him to scandals had failed citing the maize scandal in which, he said; he was cleared by all government bodies including the Kenya Anti Corruption Commission.
He said all other cases ahead of him, in an apparent reference to The Hague trial would also fail.
"I am an innocent man. Yet again this ruling has vindicated me. And I am sure all the others ahead of me will face the same fate because I am an innocent man."
He said he believed that the truth would emerge.
"I thank God that you cannot hire truth or rent or sell the truth. I am happy that this truth has finally come out," he said.
During investigations, the court heard that various companies involved in the sale of Ngong forest were Berke Commercial Agencies and Celtic Multisystems Companies associated with the Eldoret North MP.
The Chief Conservator at the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources is said to have confirmed to the investigating team that 33 plots passed to KPC were forest land and could not be sold to anybody.
He told the court that the parcels of land were not part of the 82 hectares that were degazetted from Ngong forest in 1996.
Mr Ruto had denied receiving Sh9.9 million from Ms Njue after saying he was in a position to sell 1.745 hectares of land which belonged to the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources at Ngong Forest.
He is alleged to have further received Sh57.8 million for the sale of two parcels and another Sh28 million for a parcel of land in the same forest.
Berke Commercial Agencies has been accused of falsely obtaining the monies from KPC in 2001.
Mr Kulei faced charges of obtaining Sh58 million from KPC between August 6 and September 6, 2001 while Sammy Mwaita has denied three counts of abuse of office for allegedly consenting the transfer of the parcels of land before they were degazetted.