How nation journalist Walter Menya was lured into police bribe trap
The dramatic arrest of Nation reporter Walter Menya in a hospital compound on Sunday was the climax of what appears to be an elaborate set up by a mysterious man who had a few days earlier introduced himself as a news source.
While police are yet to charge the journalist, who appeared before a magistrate at the Milimani Law Courts on June 19, we can reveal details pieced together from electronic records, multiple interviews, and police reports.
Mr Kennedy Kiprotich Koros first met Mr Menya last Thursday after calling to offer documents on the operations of the Friends of Jubilee Foundation, a powerful lobby that is key to fundraising for the re-election of President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Members of the group that had on June 9 led an exclusive dinner at Nairobi’s Safari Park Hotel were public officials and the who-is-who in corporate Kenya.
Mr Koros — whose mobile number on the caller identity application Truecaller is also listed as Lucas Ngondi — purported to be part of the campaign team of Bomet Governor and Nasa co-principal Isaac Ruto.
However, the governor’s office on Monday denied having such a person on its staff.
“We don’t have anyone by that name even at the county,” Mr Ruto’s private secretary Vitalis Kimutai told the Nation on Monday. “We can assure you that he is not one of us.”
Mr Koros, who has not made any public statements or appearances since the incident, has also been described by some sources as a “Jubilee operative”.
AGREED TO MEET
According to Mr Menya, the two agreed to meet the following day to get the documents.
Mr Koros called the journalist on Friday as promised and took the documents outside Nation Centre.
Mr Menya, who was in a meeting with Sunday Nation Editor Mike Owuor and two colleagues, excused himself and returned with the documents from his news source a few minutes later.
“I took the documents from him outside Nation Centre and immediately went back to the meeting. It did not take long,” said Mr Menya.
He showed the documents, that included details of the inner workings of the lobby, including its composition and constitution, to his editor and colleagues and was given the go-ahead to do the story.
On Saturday, Mr Koros is said to have made several calls to Mr Menya asking how the story was getting along — and seeking a meeting. This did not happen.
However, after the story appeared on Page 12 of the Sunday Nation, Mr Koros allegedly called and told Mr Menya that he had more incriminating documents against the powerful lobby.
“I told him I was in church but he insisted we should meet. I was also off-duty so I told him I could not come to town since he suggested meeting at Kilimanjaro (a restaurant opposite Nation Centre),” said Mr Menya.
The journalist eventually told Mr Koros that he was going to Metropolitan Hospital in Buru Buru after church and could not make it to the meeting.
However, the purported news source offered to drive to the hospital.
“He called me and told me he was at the parking lot. I got into his car and he told me his “boss” was happy with the story and was willing to give me more documents.
However, he did not give me the documents but promised to deliver them later,” said Mr Menya.
But what happened next is now key to police investigations. Mr Menya alleges Mr Koros handed him an envelope and when the journalist asked what it was for, he said the “boss” was happy with the story and “wanted to say thank you with something small”.
In Mr Menya’s account, he was immediately confronted by five or six people who identified themselves as officers from the Directorate of Criminal Investigation who said they were arresting him for soliciting a bribe.
Police reports say the journalist received Sh20,000 and had been sent some money by Mr Koros through M-Pesa. Mr Menya had supposedly demanded Sh50,000. This will be part of the evidence before the court.
But there was one strange element of the arrest: some of the officers kept taking pictures of him and appeared to be sending them.
It did not take long before the pictures appeared on social media accounts of bloggers linked to the Jubilee Party.
“Senior Sunday Nation writer Walter Menya has just been arrested for soliciting bribe to publish a big fake story. Keep it here for info as the story develops,” wrote Ms Pauline Njoroge on Facebook, above a picture of Mr Menya inside a car.
The running commentary continued, with Ms Njoroge and other accounts publishing a picture of Mr Menya in handcuffs inside the DCI headquarters — where photography is usually prohibited.
But despite the bloggers having information on Mr Menya’s whereabouts, it was not the same for Nation editors, lawyers and other journalists pursuing the story.
Senior police officers denied he was at the DCI headquarters and suggested various police stations, including Muthaiga, Pangani, Gigiri and Industrial Area.
He could not be found in any of the stations despite calls to various government officials.
It was not until 9pm that editors were tipped that Mr Menya was at the DCI. Two editors were allowed limited access but the lawyer was told to wait outside. No explanation was given on why he had been held incommunicado.
On Monday, Mr Menya was taken to court where police asked to hold him for three more days before preferring charges.
The magistrate, however, ordered that he be held for one extra day.