Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko’s criminal past returned to haunt him when he was charged with money laundering, unlawful acquisition of public property and other economic crimes yesterday.
The 44-year-old flamboyant city boss appeared before anti-corruption chief magistrate Douglas Ogoti yesterday dressed in a designer shirt sequined with a gold teddy bear under a hooded camouflage jacket
The governor and his co-accused face 19 charges of corruption, abuse of office and irregular payments that saw the county lose Sh357 million.
He also faces assault charges in Voi in addition to other charges in a Mombasa court from his past activities.
The accused denied the charges and applied to be freed either on bond or cash bail amid strong opposition by the prosecution. Ogoti will make his ruling tomorrow.
Sonko was represented in court by a high profile team of lawyers including Senate Majority Leader Kipchumba Murkomen, Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo Junior, MP Makueni Dan Maanzo and lawyer Nelson Havi.
Lawyers Cecil Miller, George Kithi, Alphonse Mutinda, Osundwa Michael, Harrison Kinyanjui and three others countered all arguments by the prosecution.
But as lawyers fought for Sonko, the prosecution lifted the lid on Sonko’s previous criminal life and used that to appeal to the court to deny the former Makadara MP bail.
The Director of Public Prosecutions told Ogoti a document from the then Commissioner General of Prison Services Wycliffe Ogallo showed that Sonko was on March 1998 convicted for failure to appear in court in the hearing of two cases and was sentenced to pay a fine of Sh500,000 and Sh200,000 respectively. In default he was to serve six months imprisonment for each.
Come April, Sonko escaped from lawful custody while undergoing treatment at the Coast Provincial General hospital ward number six. He was later arrested in Nairobi.
Ogallo in his documents says that the institution does not know how his escape case was disposed of by the chief magistrate’s court in Nairobi as well as the senior principal magistrate’s court in Kibera.
Prosecutors James Kihara and Riungu Gitonga in persuading the court to deny Sonko bail said that the county chief was likely to abscond as records showed he was convicted in the past for failing to attend court.Sonko escaped prison before, he should not get bail
Kihara explained to the court that Sonko has a pending criminal case at a Mombasa court where he was charged with seven offenses and despite being granted anticipatory bail, he was yet to subject himself to the jurisdiction of the court for plea taking.
Ten months ago, Sonko told Citizen TV’s JK Live show that he held different leadership positions, including stints at three prisons.
“I was a prefect in nursery school, monitor in primary school. In high school, I was a dormitory captain.
“After that, land deals landed me in Shimo La Tewa Prison where I supervised how porridge and beans were distributed.
“I later went to the Industrial Area Prison where I was the leader of C block. Even the prison commandants are listening right now.
“Then I went to Kamiti Prison where I was the leader of the C or D block where I was remanded.
“Your past should not determine your future and you should not be ashamed of your past. I have lived in a single-roomed house and suffered a lot.
“I have been a criminal and a fraudster but I stopped that life when I became an MP.
“That’s why I’m the only medicine for these cartels. You bring a fake title (deed) I know, a fake ID card I know because I have been a thief but now, I’m a leader and should lead by example.”
Sonko was arraigned alongside the county secretary, senior clerical officers and others for corruption allegations.
The Prosecution presented two charge sheets. In the first file, Sonko, Fredrick odhiambo, Web Tribe Limited, Danson Muchemi, Robert Muriithi, Zablon Onyango, ROG Security Limited and Anthony Otieno Ombok were accused of embezzling Sh24.1 million county funds. Only Sonko, Odhiambo and Otieno were present. They denied the charges.
In the second file, Sonko alongside 16 others among them private liability companies allegedly embezzled public funds to the tune of Sh357 million from Nairobi county. Some of the accused persons were not present in court. Summons will be issued in effect.
It is alleged that Sonko on December 17 last year at Equity Bank received Sh3 million from Toddy Civil Engineering Limited, property belonging to Nairobi county government whilst knowing the property formed part of proceeds of crime. Soko in January this year allegedly received another Sh3 million from Web Tribe, which was part of proceeds of crime.
Sonko has been in custody since Friday last week. The prosecutor yesterday urged the court to deny him bail on grounds that if he is released, he will interfere with the witnesses who are junior officers and employees of the county government.
Kihara told the court that Sonko is an influential, flamboyant and public figure with a rowdy and sycophantic following who on numerous occasions have threatened and demonstrated to act outside the law.
Police set up barriers on streets around the court and diverted traffic in anticipation of possible trouble after Sonko’s supporters called for protests.
The court also heard that Sonko has used his position as governor to incite some of the county executive committee members from recording statements in other ongoing investigations and releasing him would jeopardize the investigations.
“The offences facing the accused are grave and it is in the interest of the public that he is denied bail. We will also be asking the court to ensure Sonko does not access his office pending the determination of this graft case,” Kihara said.
But His defense team told the court that there was no evidence to support the allegation that Sonko used his position to incite the CECs from recording statements.
Miller denied claims that Sonko was fleeing from the officers when he was arrested in Voi. He said Sonko was on his way to Coast when he was apprehended at Voi.
The state did not oppose the release of the other accused persons on bail but urged the court to consider the amount of money involved.
Ogoti directed Sonko to get medical treatment in the presence of prisons authorities.
This was after Miller presented a letter from MP Shah Hospital signed by Dr Esther Nafula Wekesa showing that Sonko was examined at the facility. Sonko is said to have complained of chest pain following assault on Friday evening.
“The pain has been worsening with time and patient is unable to lie down flat for examination. I recommend an urgent chest CT scan to rule out rib fractures and hospital admission for further evaluation,” read the letter.