PROSECUTION ON LEAVE

Bank evidence drags plaintiff in PCEA Sh50m theft suit

Statements show church secretary general authorised transfer of funds, he is signatory of Paye account

In Summary

• Accused are charged with forging signature of church SG to facilitate transfer of Sh50m, former bank staffer says SG signed the documents. 

• Secretary-general said to have gone back to bank after realising money had been stolen from the church. 

Former PCEA church moderator David Gathanju, James Muiruri and Peter Mwangi in Kiambu where they denied charges of stealing Sh50.9 million belonging to PCEA..
SIGNATORY TO PAYE ACCOUNT: Former PCEA church moderator David Gathanju, James Muiruri and Peter Mwangi in Kiambu where they denied charges of stealing Sh50.9 million belonging to PCEA..
Image: Stanley Njenga

PCEA secretary general Peter Kania Kariuki signed bank transfer forms authorising the transfer of Sh50,940,753 million from the church account, new evidence produced in court shows.

The compromising evidence was produced during the hearing of a case in which a former PCEA moderator David Gathanju and two other people have denied stealing the money.

The theft is said to have happened between January 2, 2016, and June 30, 2017, at PCEA head office in South C Estate, Nairobi.

 

Secretary-general Kariuki is the complainant. 

Gathanju's co-accused are James Muiruri Njane and Peter Mwangi Kamuthu.

They also charged with forging signatures on an Equity Bank funds transfer form purporting it to be a genuine signature of Kariuki and Amon Nderi Ng'ang'a. 

An Equity Bank statement provided to defence lawyers on Thursday showed that the complainant authorised the transfer of the funds. 

The prosecution sought to recall the statement but the defence refused. The prosecution sought 11 days for further instructions from DPP Noordin Hajji.

The prosecutor had told senior principal magistrate Stella Atambo that the defence had been furnished with all statements in the case, except the bank statements and those from the investigating officer. 

“We will be using a different witness statement from Equity Bank as the witness statement given to the defence lawyers is irrelevant,” investigating officer Paul Waweru told the court.

 

Defence counsel Danstan Omari, John Njuguna, Kimani Wakimaa and Stanley Kangahi said they had only been supplied with statements from the bank.

They questioned why a witness statement was withdrawn without any explanation.

“The statements given to us by the investigating officer touch the legal theory of the case and we wonder why the prosecution would recall the witness. We cannot proceed since we have no evidence of the bank on who really made or authorised the transfers,” Omari said.

The statement made by Rotich Chebet, a former employee of the bank's Nairobi West branch, was in response to Waweru's query on the alleged conspiracy to commit a felony. 

It stated that Kariuki is a mandatory signatory to the Paye accounts and that once the transfers were made, Chebet called back Kariuki.

The secretary general did not deny the calls. 

“Sometimes around June 2017, the Kania (Kariuki) came to my office and informed me that he had realised all the money normally withdrawn by Peter Kamuthu, who was a signatory to some of the church accounts, was being stolen and that he had totally finished it," she states.  

"The SG said he had tried reaching Kamuthu unsuccessfully. He, therefore, wanted to see all the applications for funds transfer forms to see where the money was being transferred to. I questioned him about the calls I made to him as a mandatory signatory account since he had stated that sometimes he was signing the application forms for funds transfer in a hurry.

"He agreed the callbacks were made to him and he should be given time to go and sort things out from their side,” Chebet's statement read.

The former Equity employee said before effecting any transfer from one account, she would call Kariuki to confirm whether he had sanctioned the transfer. She would also call church treasurer Amon Nderi, the statement reads.

She only authorised the concerned teller to effect the transfer after all calls were made.

“I categorically deny that I conspired with Kamuthu or anyone else to defraud the church as everything was done above board and as per the laid down bank procedures. I had no knowledge anyone was stealing from the church until the secretary general came to the branch with the information.”

The investigating officer certified and signed the recorded statement without coercion or intimidation.

Wakimaa told the court that the evidence given by witness Jane Kiarie on how the accused siphoned off the money from the church is not indicated in the original statement. Kiarie is the church accountant.

Atambo granted the prosecution leave to put their house in order and ordered that the defence team be supplied with all witness statements that will be relied upon.

The matter will be heard on July 19. 

Edited by R.Wamochie