Standard writers quizzed over Sh840m story

April 18, 2011 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 18 – A journalist and two editors at the Standard Group were summoned to the Criminal Investigations Department to record statements over a story that claimed one of Ocampo Six suspects lost 840 million shillings at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA).

Crime reporter Cyrus Ombati as well as editors Kipkoech Tanui and David Ohito went to Mazingira House on Monday afternoon where they were questioned for several hours by detectives in the Serious Crimes Unit.  The journalists were accompanied by two of the newspaper’s lawyers.

They spent about two hours being questioned and were asked to report back on Tuesday when they would be told if they would face any court action.

Capital News learnt that the three were informed that the information they published was alarming.

“They are required to explain the source of the story.  They are also supposed to explain how they ended up reporting that a staggering Sh840 million had been lost at the airport, yet the Occurrence Book at JKIA police station shows that a lap top bag with electronic contents had been reported missing,” a source close to the probe said.

Even though the story did not name the Ocampo suspect who allegedly lost the money, Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta issued a statement in which he said it was evident he was the person alluded to, since he reported a missing bag to the police.

“The front page article in \’The Standard\’ this morning (Friday) is an atrocious falsehood and part of the current conspiracy to discredit the Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Uhuru Kenyatta. The description, the blogs (which specifically mention his name) plus the fact that only he reported a lost bag, make it very clear that the accusations are specifically against the DPM,” a statement from his office last week said.

Mr Kenyatta said his assistant left one of his bags on the plane when they arrived back in Nairobi. All his bags had been subjected to normal security screening and scanning in Amsterdam.

“When the assistant went back to look for it, it was missing and the matter was reported to Kenya Airways and the police. The contents were detailed to the police and they are still tracing this bag,” the statement added.

The Standard story had claimed that the money was in US dollars amounting to $10 million.  It has since been established that such an amount of money would weigh about 100 kilos and would be difficult to carry around.

“The consequences of such accusations are even more serious as they would mean his contravention of the Court Order issued by the Judges of the ICC. It appears that the object of the false accusations was an attempt to seriously prejudice the DPM’s position before the court in The Hague,” Mr Kenyatta said.

On Saturday, the Standard ran a page one retraction and apology over the erroneous report.

“On verification of the actual sum that could potentially have been lost, we no longer believe that it is possible for anyone to carry $10 million and still satisfy the 12kg airline minimum baggage weight,” the paper said.

It added:  “As a newspaper that believes in setting the record straight, we have no reason to hold on to our previously stated position. Investigations are under way to determine how our internal and quality control systems failed.”

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