- Anti-corruption court magistrate Douglas Ogoti said the evidence of the witnesses would proceed in a closed door session.
- That means the media will not be allowed to follow the proceedings. The witnesses will use pseudonyms.
The hearing of the Sh10 million corruption case facing Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko started Monday with a protected witness laying the evidence on how he abused his office and conspired with others to commit the offence.
The prosecution led by James Kihara and Gitonga Riungu lined up four protected witnesses who will give their testimony on a priority basis.
Anti-corruption court magistrate Douglas Ogoti said the evidence of the witnesses would proceed in a closed door session. That means the media will not be allowed to follow the proceedings. The witnesses will use pseudonyms.
On Monday, Sonko pleaded afresh after a new count of abuse of office was introduced to the charge sheet. He is charged alongside ROG Security Limited and its director Antony Otieno Ombok alias Jamal.
The offences are linked to a contract for the supply, implementation and maintenance of an electronic revenue collection and payments solution for Nairobi city county. They were committed between December 2018 and January 2019.
It is alleged that Sonko, ROG Limited and its director - Jamal - jointly and knowingly conspired to commit an offence of corruption, being abuse of office by extorting the payment of Sh10 million as an inducement.
The inducement was to facilitate Web Tribe Limited by Nairobi city county government and thereby improperly conferring a benefit to the company.
Another count states that Sonko on January 10 last year "knowingly acquired indirect private interest in a contract connected with a public entity".
The contract is for the supply, implementation and maintenance of an electronic revenue collection and payments solution. The contract was awarded by the Nairobi city county government to Web Tribe.
The witness said Sonko received Sh1 million interest from Web Tribe through ROG Security Limited. The money was deposited through an account at the Equity Bank's Gigiri branch.
Sonko is said to have received another Sh1 million through Equity Bank, from Fredrick Odhiambo alias Fred Oyugi through ROG Security Limited. The money was wired to his Equity account through ROG Security Limited.
ROG was accused of receiving Sh5 million from Web Tribe through Equity Bank. The money was a 'benefit' in respect of the contract for the supply, implementation and maintenance of an electronic revenue collection and payment solution.
The DPP said they received the money knowing it formed part of proceeds of crime.
But prior to Sonko pleading to the charges, both parties spent close to four hours seeking to have the plea deferred.
Lawyers Danstan Omari and Shadrack Wambui representing ROG Limited and Jamal tried to persuade the trial court to suspend the proceedings on grounds that they had challenged the same before the High Court. They told the magistrate that the decision to charge and have a fresh charge sheet was never communicated by the state.
"Had the state indicated to the accused persons earlier than September 7, they could have challenged the charges earlier," the lawyer said.
Omari was of the opinion that if the High Court suspended the plea, the same will occasion a great prejudice to the accused persons. He wanted the plea taking temporarily deferred awaiting direction from the High Court.
The application before the High Court was to proceed virtually on Monday morning.
But the DPP opposed the application for adjournment and stay. The prosecution said since January, the accused persons have all along known they were slated to take a plea.
"They cannot then appear before this court on the eleventh hour to say that they have moved to the High Court in an effort to stay the proceedings before you," Kihara told Ogoti.
Kihara insisted that no order from the High Court has been issued to stay the trial proceedings and therefore parties should plead to the charges.
"The accused is always presumed innocent. The trial hasn't even began. We are supposed to take plea today and proceed with the evidence of three protected witnesses. I urge that you reject this application for stay," Kihara said.
Ogoti said there was no material placed before him to enable him interfere with proceedings. He ordered the accused persons to plead to the charges.
Sonko and Jamal both denied the charges.
Sonko is facing charges of abuse of office and conspiracy to commit an offence of corruption. Other charges facing the accused persons include money laundering and acquisition of proceeds of crime.
The case will proceed on a day to day basis. In total, 20 witnesses have been lined up to testify in the case. Four of them are protected witnesses.
Edited by P.O