KEBS boss Ongwae denies attempted murder, freed on bond

Ongwae, Eric Chesire, Eric Kariuki, Peter Kinyanjui, Martin Muswanya, Pole Mwangeni, and Benson Oduor denied attempting to commit murder by unlawfully releasing the substandard fertilizer into the market/MOSES MUOKI

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 25 – Seven suspects facing attempted murder charges over the importation of 5.8 million kilograms of substandard fertilizer containing mercury were Monday freed on a Sh10 million bond and a surety of Sh3 million each.

The seven, among them Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) Managing Director Charles Ongwae were further directed to deposit a Sh2 million cash bail each to secure their release from police custody pending trial.

Ongwae, Eric Chesire, Eric Kariuki, Peter Kinyanjui, Martin Muswanya, Pole Mwangeni, and Benson Oduor denied attempting to commit murder by unlawfully releasing the substandard fertilizer into the market.

The prosecution had told the court the fertilizer released between November 13, 2017, and June 7, 2018, endangered the lives of persons residing in Narok and Eldoret.

The Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP) under lead counsel Alexander Muteti had objected to the bail applications by the suspects, arguing that they were likely to interfere with witnesses.

Defence lawyers among them Cliff Ombeta and Haroun Ndubi countered the objection, faulting the prosecution for failing to prove that the suspects had indeed attempted to interfere with witnesses.

They further argued that witnesses could be placed under a protection program to ensure their safety.

In his ruling, Senior Principal Magistrate Kennedy Cheruiyot declined the request to deny accused persons bail directing them to report to the investigating officers on a weekly basis.

“Each of the accused persons is hereby required to deposit his/her passport or travel document in court,” the magistrate ordered.

In a separate case where Ongwae is accused of authorizing the procurement of unfit standardization marks at the cost of Sh800 million, the magistrate ordered him to execute a bond of Sh5 million with a surety of a similar amount or deposit a cash bail of 3 million.

The same orders were issued against Chesire, Kinyanjui, Kariuki, Mwangemi, and Musyanya all of who are employees at KEBS.

The KEBS officials were also charged with breach of trust, abuse of office, and aiding the commission of a felony.

Pending a pre-trial hearing on July 9, the magistrate granted a request by the DPP to issue warrants of arrests against three directors of the firm implicated in the importation of the 5.8 million kilograms of substandard fertilizer.

The three – Karim Lofti (Moroccan), Younes Addou (Moroccan), and Malika Kirama (Kenyan) – escaped arrests on Friday when their fellow co-accused were netted by officers from the Directorate of Criminal Investigations.

The three are directors of OCP Kenya Limited, a subsidiary of a Moroccan multinational which imported the substandard fertilizer.

In his ruling, Magistrate Cheruiyot declined a request to issue summonses against the trio before proceeding to issue warrants of arrests saying the remaining suspects should be arrested just like their fellow accused.

JEREMIAH WAKAYA :