Come clean on Echesa arms scandal, leaders tell DP Ruto
Eric Wainaina @EWainaina
The Director of Criminal Investigations (DCI) George Kinoti is mulling whether to summon Deputy President William Ruto to tell investigators “what he knows about the scams that target unsuspecting vulnerable Kenyans and foreign investors”.
This follows last week’s arrest of former Cabinet Secretary Rashid Echesa as he left the DP’s boardroom at Harambee Annex in Nairobi over a fake tender investigation that involves foreign businessmen.
“Investigations are going on to unearth the truth and anyone found culpable will be dealt with according to the law. No one will be spared,” Kinoti told People Daily.
A source at the DCI yesterday told People Daily detectives are today expected to visit the DP’s office to interview staff suspected to have facilitated Echesa’s meeting with the businessmen.
“We will interview the key officials even the junior staff and security who gave access to the boardroom,” said the source who spoke on condition of anonymity.
They are hoping to get crucial leads from CCTV footage at Harambee Annex as they work to establish the identity of the people involved.
They are also seeking to obtain footage from the airport where the businessmen were allegedly picked up in a military car as well as at Hemingways Hotel where some of the meetings were held.
The former Sports CS allegedly used the DP’s office to lure the businessmen into a fake Sh39 billion tender for the supply of arms to the military, in a manner that suggests tacit cooperation by influential people in Ruto’s office.
Detectives are investigating circumstances under which a man who was sacked from government could be privy to high-level security matters, including tendering for military equipment.
Echesa, who is set to appear in court today, was arrested outside Ruto’s office where he had wanted to dupe the Polish businessmen into signing tender documents in a room in the DP’s office.
Yesterday, Ruto confirmed that the “scammers” were in his office for 23 minutes but challenged investigators to extend the probe to other State departments.
“Other than 23 min (minutes) in Annex, for months, which government offices involved in the ‘tender’, did the scammers visit? Did they access DOD (Department of Defence)? Who facilitated? Who did they meet?” he tweeted.
Even as the DP threw back the challenge to investigators, People Daily has established that this is not the first time Harambee Annex has been used for execution of fake tenders involving millions of shillings during which businessmen have been swindled of their cash.
A picture is painted of an office that has been used to give a seal of approval to fake tendering involving highly-placed businessmen with the help of State bureaucracy, even as President Uhuru Kenyatta has declared war on corruption.
Two businessmen, Stephen Musyoka and Charles Gathii lost Sh181 million and Sh116 million, respectively, in fake security surveillance tenders two years ago in a scam that mirrors the Echesa case.
Musyoka and Gathii had been taken to Harambee Annex to sign and collect forged tender documents. Both matters are active in court. (See separate story)
In the Echesa case, investigators have indicated they would question Ruto’s Chief of Staff Ken Osinde, Private Secretary Reuben Maiyo and Personal Assistant Farouk Kibet on the former minister’s activities at the Deputy President’s office.
According to the Polish arms suppliers who raised the alarm on the former CS, Echesa had invoked Ruto’s name in the deal. Mamdou Amer, a director at Eco Advance Technology LLC, which was to be “awarded the tender”, said Echesa was working with accomplices, one of who masqueraded as a military general.
Other than Echesa, others in custody are Daniel Otieno Omondi, Kennedy Oyoo Mboya and Clifford Okoth.
According to the businessmen, they were supposed to meet the DP on Thursday when the suspects were arrested.
“We were supposed to met him (Ruto) but Echesa went out and then came back and told us that he was in a meeting,” Amer told investigators.
Yesterday, pressure continued to mount on Ruto to record a statement over the scandal. Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu dismissed the DP’s defence that the scammers were in his office for 23 minutes, saying the time was sufficient to seal a deal.
“One can sign very many documents in 23 mins Your Excellency. Especially if a well-connected aide associated with the kind of power your office holds first ensured everyone is seated, and that all the ‘t’s were crossed and ‘i’s dotted; and the docs (documents) were prepared and tagged, just waiting signatures,” he said.
Kitui Governor Charity Ngilu asked the DP to stop hoodwinking Kenyans through tweets and step aside to allow investigations in an impartial environment.
“It is now evidently clear through his own admission, that these activities have been taking place in his office which he admitted that the meeting took place, albeit for 23 minutes,” she said.
“This happening in an office that should be beyond reproach is certainly putting the country, the Presidency to shame, ridicule and is now beyond acceptable limits,” she added in a statement.
Siaya Senator James Orengo challenged the DP to come clean on the corruption allegations that have been placed on his doorstep.
“The office of the Deputy President has become a crime scene, with people getting into his office masquerading as army generals, that is very strange,” Orengo said during a funeral of John Melti in Busia on Saturday.
Former Nominated Senator Paul Njoroge said there was no way Echesa and foreigners could hold meetings at Harambee House Annex without the DP’s blessings.
“Uhuru should give a directive with immediate effect for his deputy Ruto to be summoned concerning the multi-billion- shilling fake deal which was sealed in his office as he aided in the successful defrauding of foreign arms dealer company,” he said