, NAIROBI, May 30 – Thirty suspects linked to the Sh468 million graft at the National Youth Service (NYS) have until Thursday 2pm to present themselves to the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI), even as 24 of their co-accused applied to be freed on bail.
The 24—among them Public Service and Youth Affairs Principal Secretary Lillian Omollo and NYS Director-General Richard Ndubai—pleaded not guilty when they were arraigned before Chief Magistrate Douglas Ogoti on Tuesday.
Suspects who missed the court session were given more time to surrender even as the court directed that the pre-trial of those named in the mega scandal commences on Wednesday next week.
The ruling was made way past midnight after defence lawyers of suspects absent in court locked horns with the prosecution who sought warrants of arrests against them.
Lawyers from the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) led by Senior Assistant Director Emily Kamau however, later reviewed their request saying they would drop their application for warrants of arrests if the suspects’ lawyers commit that they will surrender to the DCI for processing.
Lawyers of the suspects missing in court had objected to the move, arguing that their clients had no prior information that they were required in court.
“Our clients are not aware of these proceedings as the DPP may want the court to believe. One cannot be served to appear before the court through the media. Four of my clients do not have televisions sets!” a defence counsel told the court.
Earlier in the day, PS Omollo and NYS boss Ndubai – who both stepped aside to pave way for investigations – pleaded not guilty to conspiring to commit corruption at the youth agency.
The two also denied abuse of office charges levelled against them by the prosecution over their alleged role in the payment of Sh468 million to 10 companies, which investigators said supplied neither goods nor services to the NYS.
The 10 companies involved are Annwaw Investment, Njewanga Investments, Arkroad Holdings Limited, Kunjiwa Enterprises, Ameri Trade Limited, Ngwiwaco Enterprises, Jerrycathy Enterprises, Fisrtling Supplies Limited, Kalabash Food Supplies Limited, and Ersatz Enterprises.
Similar charges were denied by former Acting NYS Director-General Sammy Michuki as well as Senior Deputy Director Nicholas Ahere and Acting Director of Finance Wellington Lubira, who are among forty public servants accused of colluding to defraud the youth department.
Company directors and proprietors facing prosecutions are Anne Ngirita, Phyllis Njeri, Catherine Mwai, Antony Wamiti, James Thuita, Yvonne Ngugi, Jeremiah Ngirita, Lucy Ngirita, Andrine Nyambura, Catherine Kamuyu, Serah Muguru, Samwel Kanai, and James Katululu.
The Magistrate is set to rule on applications for bail by the 24 suspects who appeared in court on Tuesday next week with pre-trials for those charged in the NYS saga set commence on Wednesday.
While making an application for bail, lawyer Cliff Ombeta representing Ndubai, refuted arguments by the prosecution that his client was a flight risk and was likely to interfere with evidence should he be set free.
He argued that having stepped down for three months to allow investigations into the loss of funds at NYS, Ndubai was in no position of influence as claimed.
A similar defence was put up for PS Omollo, whose lawyer told the court that she was keen on clearing her name hence the commitment to cooperating with the court.
The prosecution through an affidavit filed in court had cited the seriousness of crimes the accused persons were facing as the reason they wanted them to remain in police custody to facilitate further investigations.
“There are compelling reasons to warrant the detention of the accused persons pending hearing and determination of their case,” reads an affidavit sworn by Chief Inspector Mike Muia, a senior investigating officer with the DCI.
The prosecution is expected to supply defence counsels of those charged on Tuesday with evidence by Friday this week ahead of the pre-trial.