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Awori family raises Sh800m to bail out jailed Wakhungu

By People Team
Monday, August 3rd, 2020
Sirisia MP John Waluke (right) and co-accused Grace Wakhungu who were sentenced over a Sh297 million maize scandal. Photo/PD/FILE
In summary
    • Families of the convict  claim their efforts to raise the fine were being hampered by the anti-graft agency and the taxman, which  they claim were threatening to track the source of any monies paid to secure their freedom.
    • EACC boss Twalib Mbarak and DPP Noordin Haji are reported to have said they will look at the sources of the cash raised to secure the two convicts to ensure they are not proceeds of crime.

Hillary Mageka and Bernice Mbugua

The larger Awori family has raised a whopping Sh800 million in a bid to secure the freedom of one of their own, Grace Wakhungu, who is serving time in jail over corruption.

But the family of her co-accused, Sirisia MP John Waluke, has not been as lucky, with sources revealing that they had only managed to raise Sh250 million out of the Sh727,725,562 million fine imposed by the anti-corruption court during the duo’s sentencing on June 25.

The court had jailed Waluke for 67 years in default of the fine.

Wakhungu, mother to former Environment Cabinet Secretary Judi Wakhungu, was on the other hand handed 69 years in jail or a Sh707,725,562 million fine.

In the meantime, Waluke, is serving time at Kamiti Maximum Prison while Wakhungu, 79, is languishing at the Lang’ata Women Prison as they await the hearing of an application by their legal teams to be released on bond pending appeal. The hearing is set for this Friday.

The two were handed the hefty sentences for their role in a maize import scandal which saw the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) lose Sh297 million  in 2009. 

As they consider the appellate option, the families of the two convicts are racing against time to secure their freedom.

In interviews with People Daily at the weekend, a member of the Waluke family who sought anonymity protested that their efforts to raise the fine were being hampered by agencies such as the anti-corruption commission and the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) which have threatened to track the source of any money paid to secure their freedom. 

Waluke’s lawyer Sam Nyaberi said they had filed an application for bond pending appeal since they cannot raise the huge fine. 

“We are waiting to be heard on August 7, since we filed the application under certificate of urgency we expect to have directions soon,” he said .

 Nyaberi noted the appeal may take time to be heard and determined and in the process Waluke may suffer prejudice. 

The lawyer complained that he is yet to be supplied with the case proceedings to enable him to pursue the appeal. 

A source from the Wakhungu family, on the other hand, confided that despite some challenges, they were on course to secure her freedom.

“The sentencing of granny is not something that was taken lightly by Wakhungu’s siblings, both here in Kenya and Uganda.

Due to the robust family network, a system was quickly put in place to have money raised without delay.

“In fact, we outdid ourselves by raising close to Sh800 million, being contributions from family members through the sale of assets locally and abroad, personal savings and ‘silent’ funds drives by friends,” the source who cannot be identified discussing intimate family details, said.

Personal savings

“However, we are somehow stuck, because we have the amount ready but the DPP, EACC and KRA are sending threats our way,” he added. 

He disclosed that Wakhungu’s immediate family had raised Sh197 million. The immediate family consists of the former CS Judi and her siblings Ben Wakhungu and Susan Wakhungu-Githuku. 

During her vetting for the position of Kenya’s ambassador to France by the National Assembly committee on Defence and Foreign Relations in 2018, Judi put her net worth at close to Sh170 million.

A nephew of the jailed granny gave a donation of Sh100 million while her brother, former Vice President Moody Awori is said to have given his family’s and personal contribution of Sh135 million.

Wakhungu’s sister, Dr Mary Okello, the founding director of Makini Schools, is said to have donated Sh28 million.

The family and friends of Dennis Awori, a former Kenya ambassador to Japan and who has headed several blue chip companies, are said to have raised Sh15 million.

The family of former Ugandan MP Aggrey Awori contributed Sh41 million, our sources disclosed. 

The families of Wakhungu’s deceased brothers Hannington Awori and Prof Nelson Awori are said to have contributed Sh93 million for their kin.

Others who are said to have given contributions include family members Christine Hayanga, Henry Awori, Willis Awori and Ernest Awori who are reported to have raised a total of Sh54 million.

A funds-drive organised by Wakhungu’s family members locally and abroad separately raised Sh236 million, revealed our sources. 

Yesterday, Wakhungu’s lawyer Paul Muite told People Daily that he was looking forward to the bond application set for Friday.

“We want to appeal against the conviction because the payments which were made to the company (Erad) were pursuant to a court judgment.

How then do you say they stole yet it was against the judgment of the court that the monies were paid, not through vouchers,” he said on telephone.

“If you were to follow the law and say that Grace received Sh40 million, then the maximum fine should be Sh80 million, not the figures they are bandying around.” 

 Early last month, Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) boss Twalib Mbarak and Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji said in an interview on Citizen TV that they will look at the sources of the cash raised to secure the two convicts to ensure they are not proceeds of crime. 

The duo insisted that if the accused person must pay the court fines, the funds must be from legitimate sources as they “cannot allow proceeds of crime to be used to free graft suspects”.

“If they seek to pay, we will question where the money is coming from,” Haji said, adding that they are preparing to respond to Waluke’s application before court. 

 On his part, Mbarak said his agency in partnership with other relevant institutions were focusing on the second phase of the case, which is asset recovery. 

“We will go for any assets that these people have as a result of the scandal,” he said.

Meanwhile, a source yesterday said that as Wakhungu waits for the court process with the fine cash at the ready, Sirisia lawmaker Waluke’s family has so far managed to raise a modest Sh250 million.

The amount includes a Sh100 million contribution from a senior politician close to the MP and is known for his generosity.

Waluke’s parliamentary colleagues have on the other hand managed to raise only Sh6 million while his family has managed to raise Sh144 million mainly from sale of property in Nairobi.

Waluke’s wife, Roseline Nakhanu Waluke, who had launched a Paybill number to enable the family to raise the fine, has since abandoned the initiative, citing frustrations.

“I regret starting this fund-raiser to bail out my husband. People have been mocking me and hurling abuses at me instead of helping.

I wouldn’t have done it had I known things would turn out this way. I have left everything to God,” she recently told People Daily.

“Some are calling and telling me that they can’t contribute money for a thief,” she added. 

But family sources said the initiative had managed to raise Sh361,458 by last week. 

Waluke’s lawyer Nyaberi on his part maintains that the  trial magistrate, Elizabeth Juma, erred in law and fact by convicting the MP on the basis of a defective charge sheet.

He argues that the trial court misdirected itself on the applicable law based on the set of facts adduced by the prosecution to the prejudice of the MP and his co-accused. 

“The court failed to appreciate that this was inherently a commercial transaction between a willing tenderer and willing supplier,” said the MP.

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