NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 7 – The High Court has extended orders barring the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) from linking Bungoma Senator Moses Wetangula to allegations of bribery made against British American Tobacco.
Justice Roselyne Aburili extended the orders for another two weeks after she heard from Wetangula’s lawyer James Orengo that they had been unable to serve their defamation suit papers on the BBC since they filed them in December.
Orengo told the Court that their process servers were sent back with the papers when they attempted to serve them on the BBC’s Nairobi office.
He said the BBC had also failed to respond to the suit papers mailed to their London headquarters.
Aburili therefore directed that a fresh attempt be made at serving the papers within the fortnight so an intre-parties hearing can be held on January 26.
Wetangula has sued the BBC for compensation and a retraction with Orengo arguing before Aburili that irreparable damage had been done to his client’s reputation.
Orengo argued that while the BBC may have been temporarily restrained from re-airing what they contend are defamatory allegations against Wetangula, an innumerable number of other media outlets were carrying on the story.
On their Panorama programme, the BBC named Wetangula as one of a number of African political leaders who had accepted bribes from British American Tobacco in order to secure its interests in their countries.
A former contractor of the firm, Paul Hopkins, accused Wetangula on the programme of demanding an air ticket for his wife to accompany him to the BAT headquarters in London where he allegedly also demanded that they put him up in 2012 when he was Trade Minister.
Others who have been dragged into the murky affair include former Justice Minister Martha Karua, the Kenya Revenue Authority and former Premier Raila Odinga.
All of whom have denied complicit involvement in any illegal exchanges and called on the Kenyan public to hold off on passing judgment against them until comprehensive investigations are undertaken and concluded.
The High Court will in February deliver its judgment on a petition filed by BAT challenging the implementation of tobacco regulations which would require cigarette manufacturers to graphically display on their packaging the health risks of smoking and pay a two percent health tax.