NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 10 – The International Criminal Court (ICC) on Thursday made it public that lawyer Paul Gicheru and Philip Kipkoech Bett were arrested in July “for corruptly influencing ICC witnesses.”
Judges of the Pre Trial Chamber II unsealed warrants against the two, to reveal that they ordered their arrest on March 10, 2015 to stop them from interfering with witnesses and obstructing court proceedings.
“The Pre-Trial Chamber II found that there are reasonable grounds to believe that Philip Kipkoech Bett, also known as “Kipseng’erya” hailing from and residing in Kenya, and Paul Gicheru, a lawyer based in Kenya, are criminally responsible for offences against the administration of justice consisting in corruptly influencing prosecution witnesses.”
According to a press release from the court, Gicheru and Bett were arrested by Kenyan police in July 2015 and were presented before a judge of the High Court of Kenya following the warrant of arrest issued by the ICC judges in confidentiality.
The judges issued the warrants of arrest following the prosecution’s application on February 9, 2015 that the two and another individual were interfering with ICC witnesses.
However, the prosecution later withdrew the warrant of arrest against the third individual.
Bensouda said Bett and Gicheru were criminally responsible on six counts for interfering with six witnesses of the court.
She detailed a scheme to demonstrate how the two interfered with the six witnesses and offered money to them and also entice them to inform other witnesses of the scheme.
According to the judges, she furnished the court with documentary evidence which included witness statements and correspondence between them and the witnesses.
Bensouda told the court that the two were part of a systematically designed scheme meant to approach and corrupt ICC witnesses by bribing and inducing them using other means to make them recant their evidence.
“The evidence indicates that the said scheme has been run in an organised manner and with a clear distribution of tasks.”
Gicheru was alleged to have been the manager and coordinator of the scheme in that he finalised agreements with witnesses who had been interfered with.
The prosecutor said he handled their withdrawal as witnesses and initiated their reward payments.
On the other hand, Bett’s role was to contact the witnesses and make proposals to them before introducing them to Gicheru who was the manager.
After corrupting witnesses, Gicheru and Bett are said to have used them to approach others.
“Bett, together with another individual, approached Witness P-397, informed the witness of the scheme for corrupting witnesses and took the witness to Gicheru who negotiated and agreed with the witness that Sh5 million would be paid in exchange of the witness’s withdrawal,” the prosecutor alleged.
Gicheru is further alleged to have paid another witness two cash instalments of Sh600,000 and Sh400,000.”
The court found there was no reason to continue upholding its confidentiality since the two were already arrested and appeared before a court in Kenya.
The warrants of arrest against Bett and Gicheru bring the total number of people wanted by the ICC for interfering with witnesses to three.
The first warrant of arrest was against journalist Walter Barasa who the ICC wants to turn himself in at the seat of the court at The Hague for detention.
On Thursday, the ICC Pre Trial Chamber II refused to substitute the warrant of arrest issued against Barasa with summons to appear.
The judges said since the warrant of arrest was issued, Barasa had not yet been arrested and hadn’t surrendered despite being within reach of Kenyan authorities.
Barasa’s lawyer Nicholas Kaufman had applied to the court challenging the warrant for his arrest.
He said Barasa was willing to appear in court if the warrant of arrest is withdrawn.
The judges said Barasa had only one option, to appear before the ICC judges at The Hague, get detained then apply for interim release. According to the judges, Barasa, Bett and Gicheru operated a similar scheme of bribing witnesses to withdraw.