Sonko's Sh14 million corruption case begins in camera
The trial of Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko over corruption involving a Sh14.1 million tender for heavy equipment commenced on Tuesday, with a protected witness taking the stand.
Sonko was opposed to the case proceeding in a closed session but the court overruled his objection after the prosecution indicated they are ready to proceed with two witnesses.
Sonko claimed that an order by the court issued in January placing witnesses under protection did not affect the Sh14 million graft case but was meant for his other Sh10 million case, which is pending.
In the current case, Sonko, Fredrick Odhiambo trading as Yiro Enterprises, ROG Security Limited and its director Antony Otieno Ombok alias Jamal have denied charges of conspiracy to commit an offence of corruption, conflict of interest, money laundering and acquisition of proceeds of crime.
It is alleged that the governor in December 2018 received an indirect private interest of Sh8.4 million from Fred Odhiambo in a contract for hiring of heavy equipment.
ROG Security and its director Jamal was accused of unlawfully receiving Sh14 million through Equity Bank from Fred Odhiambo. The money was in respect of a contract for hiring heavy equipment. ROG is accused of having received it whilst knowing it was proceeds of crime.
At the same time, Sonko through lawyers Cecil Miller and George Kithi has challenged orders of a lower court directing that protected witness statements be redacted and that they testify in a closed session using pseudonyms.
Sonko says redaction of witness statements should exclude witnesses' personal details such as the names and addresses but the accused should at all times have the substance of the evidence to be adduced at the trial.
In the application filed before the High Court, Sonko says the essence of the redaction is to hide the identity of or protect the witness and not to prejudice the accused in his preparation of a defence.
“It is important to ensure that the redaction of witness statements does not create gaps affecting the quality or meaning of the remaining portions of the documents which are produced,” he says.
Sonko says the edited witness statements by the prosecution fall below the materiality test.
He argues that the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Ethics and Anti-corruption Commission have supplied him with unreadable documents and totally redacted witness statements which they intend to rely on in the prosecution of his cases.
“The DPP and EACC have wilfully refused to comply with the trial court's directions on disclosure and discovery of evidence in all the three cases they have lodged against me,” Sonko says.
He says it’s not practicable for him to prepare his defence going by the unreadable documents and redacted witness statements.
This article was published by The Star on 7/10/2020.