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December 15, 2018

Why I took up Mwilu's case, says QC Qureshi

Queens`s Counsel Khawar Qureshi at a Milimani court on Thursday, December 6. /COLLINS KWEYU
Queens`s Counsel Khawar Qureshi at a Milimani court on Thursday, December 6. /COLLINS KWEYU

British lawyer Khawar Qureshi yesterday said he has what it takes to have Deputy Chief Justice Philomena Mwilu convicted.

Qureshi was on Wednesday hired by DPP Noordin Haji to lead the prosecution in Mwilu's corruption case.

Quresh said he has the experience and insights required to handle the high-profile matter.

Yesterday, the Queen's Counsel arrived at the High Court yesterday to start his work but Mwilu's lawyers led by James Orengo, Okongo Omogeni and Nelson Khavi raised objections.

Orengo said the DPP had no powers to appoint a British lawyer to represent him.

In an interview with the Star, Qureshi said he was relishing the challenge and was ready to prosecute the case.

“I'm an international counsel who has acted on hundreds of challenges to decisions of UK government and for different states on large-scale fraud and corruption matters including Nigeria, Russia and some African states I can’t mention. Hopefully, I can bring that insight on these issues,” Qureshi said.

Mwilu is fighting to stop her prosecution for abuse of office, failure to pay stamp tax, improperly obtaining Sh12 million from Imperial Bank and obtaining security for a loan by false pretence.

The case is being heard by a bench comprising judges Hellen Omondi, Mumbi Ngugi, Chacha Mwita, Francis Tuiyot and William Musyoka.

“I understood the main thrust of the petition is that the DPP was not acting independently and fairly. Despite lack of substance in those issues, he is doing everything possible to demonstrate that he is acting independently and fairly by appointing a Queen’s Counsel. Hopefully, that should satisfy,” Qureshi said.

He said the team of lawyers who were originally on the case from the DPP's office are able and have worked tirelessly to ensure justice is met.

Asked why he took up the task, the lawyer said he is duty-bound to accept the job so long as there is no conflict of interest and that the matter in question is within the ambit of his practice.

“As barrister of Queens’s Counsel of England, I'm instructed by governments of the world. I have worked for governments in Africa and represented the UK government on hundreds of cases including extradition and public litigation matters," he said.

Secretary in the office of DPP Dorcas Oduor defended the decision to hire Qureshi, saying Haji has a right to engage a lawyer of his choice.

“The law recognises that you can bring somebody else and that’s why it’s in our Constitution. Section 85 of criminal procedure code says DPP can appoint private counsel,” Oduor told the court.

She wondered why the lawyers representing Mwilu were afraid of Qureshi.

Qureshi arrived at the court at about 9am although the session began at 10.49am.

He spent his time along the court corridors chatting with fellow prosecutors from the office of the DPP.

At 10.34am, the officers from the DPP brought their own podium to court but it was removed after protest.

Court clerks were running around checking if everything was in place before the five judges walked in.

After introduction, Orengo opposed Qureshi’s appearance in the case, questioning the process of his hiring.

The Siaya senator said Qureshi cannot represent the DPP in the case because he does not have a certificate of admission that allows him to practice in Kenya.

He said the Queen's Counsel needed a valid certificate to appear before a Kenyan court.

The DPP said all that was needed for Qureshi to work in Kenya was payment of fees to registrar of court after which he was issued with a receipt.

The receipt will suffice for him to practice awaiting issuance of certificate by courts, the DPP said.

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