Noordin Haji has been swift in ordering arrest of corruption suspects but will he secure convictions?
That has been the one-million-dollar question on Kenyans’ minds as the director of public prosecutions continues to drag the high and mighty to court.
But just as he sounds as he orders the arrests, Mr Haji says he is sure-footed in his cases and, soon, the close to 130 government officials and businesspeople will pay for their alleged crimes.
He believes he has strong cases against the suspects who have been arraigned so far.
Speaking to the Nation on phone, Mr Haji said there is enough evidence to secure convictions.
High-profile individuals who have been charged in the last three months include Busia Governor Sospeter Ojaamong and former governors Evans Kidero (Nairobi) and Daniel Waithaka (Nyandarua).
Also dragged to court were principal secretaries Richard Lesiyampe (Agriculture) and Lillian Omollo (Youth), and MPs John Waluke (Sirisia) and James Mwangi Gakuya (Embakasi North).
Others are former Kenya Power bosses Ben Chumo and Dr Ken Tarus, Kenya Bureau of Standards Managing Director Charles Ongwae, Kenya Railways boss Atnas Maina, former National Cereals and Produce boss Newton Terer and National Land Commission chairman Muhammad Swazuri.
They have all denied charges of abuse of office, conspiracy to commit an economic crime and in one case, attempted murder.
But Mr Haji says the prosecution has watertight cases and he is sure of securing convictions in most, if not all the cases.
“We only moved to court after ensuring that we have gathered enough evidence,” he says.
“The Judiciary now has to play its part because we have everything in place.”
The cases have had their fair share of drama, with arrests being conducted at night and towards the weekend— a move that has seen some lawyers protest in court.
The lawyers, led by Senior Counsel Tom Ojienda, argued that the intention of the prosecution was to humiliate the suspects by making them spend more than two nights in custody.
Prof Ojienda also said they are ready to test the evidence presented by Mr Haji since he has been saying he has watertight cases.
“We are anxious to test the evidence,” he said during the pre-trial in the case against National Land Commission chairman Muhammad Swazuri.
To strengthen his team, Mr Haji first reshuffled prosecutors in several stations in a bid to ensure effectiveness and efficiency in service delivery.
The changes affected serving deputy and senior prosecuting counsels in several departments.
And since then, in every corruption case, not less than five prosecutors have been appearing, with each of them tasked with certain arguments.
In most cases, Mr Haji has been opposing the release of the accused on bail but courts have been dismissing the applications citing lack of or insufficient evidence to prove claims such as interference of witnesses or a suspect being a flight risk.
The magistrates, however, agreed that the charges are serious and imposed strict bail and bond terms on the suspects.
The Judiciary, on the other hand, has indicated its willingness to expedite the hearings as more and more cases are being filed.
Speaking recently during a judges meeting in Mombasa, Chief Justice David Maraga assured the public that Judiciary is committed to ensuring that all the corruption cases are dealt with “impartially, expeditiously and in accordance with the law and the evidence presented”.
Justice Maraga instructed magistrates to hear the cases on a day-to-day basis, stating that days “when such cases took up to five years or even longer to determine are a thing of the past.”
But the CJ warned that Judiciary will not be used as a scapegoat or a convenient whipping boy in the war against corruption when the cases are shoddy.
“No one should expect a conviction if there is no incriminating evidence presented in court,” he said.
“The tendency by the investigating and prosecution agencies to bring to court cases that are not ready or are poorly investigated and then point an accusing finger at the Judiciary when the suspects are acquitted is not only unfair to the Judiciary and suspects concerned but also undermines public trust and confidence in the judicial and legal systems.”
Mr Asa Nyakundi, who represents several persons in the National Youth Service (NYS) scandal cases, accused the prosecution of frustrating the defence team, especially by failing to avail witness statements and other documents to be relied upon during hearing.
“Some of those documents have not been easily forthcoming. And it appears to be a standard thing in all the cases because the prosecution has always not been ready,” he said.
The lawyer complained that in some instances, the defence has been forced to cough up something to get the documents.
“We were at some point forced to supply up to ten rims of photocopying papers, yet the documents we got hardly used half a rim,” he said.
Mr Nyakundi said the defence is waiting for the opportunity to demolish the evidence presented by the prosecution.
The lawyer said although President Kenyatta means well in the fight against corruption, the institutions charged with the task seem to “feed to his desire” and are in a hurry to arraign suspects in court but not ready to proceed with the trial.
So far, three magistrates have been allocated the Sh468 million scandal at the NYS and the earliest hearing commencing on October 29.