, and JOOSEPH MURAYA
NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 9 – Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko and his co-accused persons were on Monday sent to remand prison after facing corruption charges in a Sh357 million scandal, in which they denied.
Anti-Corruption magistrate Douglas Ogoti ordered they be locked up in prison as he sifts through arguments advanced by the prosecution and defense over their release on bail.
The magistrate has ordered summons be issued against other accused persons and directors of business entities who are yet to be arrested or present themselves to the EACC which was investigating the case.
“They will be remanded in prison until Wednesday,” Ogoti ruled, after hearing arguments from both sides.
And to an application from Sonko’s lawyers that he requires urgent medical attention for injuries sustained during his dramatic arrest in Voi, the magistrate ordered he be taken to hospital once examined by a prison medical doctor who will ascertain if indeed he needs medical attention.
When they were arraigned on Monday morning, the accused persons all denied corruption and money laundering charges, with Sonko pleading not guilty to charges that suppliers had wired money to his personal accounts on diverse dates after receiving payment from City Hall.
Sonko’s troubled past returned to haunt him, after the prosecution heavily relied on it to argue its case in opposing his bail or bond.
The state specifically cited a case in which the governor escaped from Shimo La Tewa Maximum prison in Mombasa, more than a decade ago, portraying him as a dangerous person.
Prosecutors handling his case also told a magistrate’s court that Sonko has a pending criminal case that has stalled “because he has refused to present himself.”
Already, the prosecution said, a warrant of arrest has since been issued by a Magistrate’s court in Mombasa.
Therefore, the prosecution argued, if he is released on bail, “Sonko is likely to abscond or interfere with witnesses.”
“If released on bail or bond there is a high likelihood that he will interfere and intimidate witnesses who are junior officers and employees of Nairobi County Government,” a state prosecutor submitted after Sonko denied corruption-related charges including money laundering and bribery.
Lawyers representing the embattled Governor were at pains to convince the court to free him on bond, denying claims that he is a dangerous criminal as argued by the state which charged him with corruption in a Sh357 million scandal.
Sonko is accused of money laundering, receiving bribes, conflict of interest and abusing his office in tenders awarded to contractors and suppliers who are said to have wired money to his personal accounts on diverse dates.
He is charged alongside 18 others, among them County government procurement and Finance officials as well as suppliers.
Led by Cecil Miller, the lawyers urged the court to allow him to continue serving as the Governor “due to the prevailing circumstances in Nairobi County which does not have a deputy.”
Sonko has never appointed his deputy since the resignation of Polycarp Igathe 18 months ago.
The lawyers also disputed a claim by the prosecution that Sonko is a fugitive, having fled from Shimo La Tewa Prison in Mombasa more than ten years ago.
In mounting defense on why Sonko should be freed on bail, the lawyers also told the court that he had suffered injuries during a scuffle with police officers in Voi when he was arrested on Friday and airlifted to Nairobi.
Miller submitted a medical report by Sonko’s personal doctor who attended to him on Sunday, confirming he has breathing difficulty among other health concerns.
“He must be granted bail immediately,” the lawyer submitted saying “it was a matter of fighting for his life.”
According to the lawyer, a doctor attached to the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) had also confirmed Sonko’s health condition.
Governor Sonko, through his lawyers, denied having pending cases and said all previous cases were quashed and sentencing reduced to the time served.
“It’s a total lie,” Miller said of the prosecution submissions, and accused them of portraying the Governor as a “dangerous individual.”
About his alleged escape from prison, Miller said the Governor’s sentence was set aside.
“Where is the warrant of arrest?,” he posed, “They could have attached it.”
Miller cited an instance when Sonko negotiated the release of Mombasa Republican Council suspects who were held at the same prison.
“Why did they not arrest him in 2011 when he went back to the same facility?” he wondered.
“This gentleman has been cleared to run for Makadara seat as a Member of Parliament, for the Senate and Gubernatorial position.”
To support his argument, the lawyer submitted copies of police clearance certificates issued by the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI).
“What has changed now? Are they saying that the office that signed the document lied,” he posed, and turned the heat on the EACC, for clearing the Governor to vie.
Sonko, he told the court, has also been cleared to be a Member of the International Police Association.
Sonko’s numerous awards came in handy as the Lawyer also noted that the United Nations had accorded him a Good Deeds Ambassador award.