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Why DPP Renson Ingonga delays plea taking in Sh400 million fraud case

The Sh400 million online business fraud case pitting a Rwandan investor in Kenya and a local entrepreneur has taken a fresh twist after the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) recalled the file and asked the court to defer plea taking for five days.

The new development occurred when Kirimi Koome, who is accused of defrauding Mr Desire Muhinyuza, was brought to court on a warrant of arrest.

Mr Koome who was arrested on October 11, 2023, was presented before Milimani senior principal magistrate Esther Kimilu.

The prosecution led by two prosecutors Anderson Gikunda and James Gachoka filed four criminal charges against Koome. But they were not read to him.

While applying for plea deferral Mr Gachoka told the court that he had been directed by the DPP Renson Ingonga to defer his plea until October 17, 2023, to enable him to peruse and review the charges after receiving a letter from the accused’s advocate that the charges were trumped up.

“The DPP has received a letter from Hamdi and Company Advocates seeking a review of the charges which are claimed to be trumped up,” said Gachoka.

He said for the interest of justice the DPP should be indulged until October 17, 2023, when further instructions into the case will be given.

In the meantime, Gachoka said the accused may be freed on bond or a cash bail.

Defence lawyers Cliff Ombeta and Ateko Igati did not oppose plea deferral.

Equally lawyer Danstan Omari for Mr Muhinyuza did not oppose the DPP’s request.

He, however, asked the court to extend orders freezing the accounts of Mr Koome at Equity Bank Limited, Meru branch, to preserve the Merchants’ money which Mr Koome allegedly attempted to steal.

Mr Omari told the court President William Ruto has invited investors into the country to do business and the Kenyan judiciary should protect investors like Mr Muhinyuza to generate income and offer employment to job seekers.

“The interest of investors must be protected under the Kenyan laws and those bent to defraud investors like Mr Koome must meet the full force of law,” said Omari.

The lawyer further said police and the Kenyan judiciary expeditiously moved to protect funds wired to the country by the Kigali-based United Bank of Africa (UBA) to commence the online business started by Stay Online Limited (SOL) associated with Mr Muhinyuza.

Mr Omari disclosed that the accused had been appointed as a nominee for SOL (K) Limited by Mr Muhinyuza to register it in the country while he (Muhinyuza)was regularizing his immigration status in the country.

In the spirit of making Kenya an economic hub, Mr Muhinyuza requested SOL (Rwanda) which is the mother company, to wire USD 2,619,583 (about Sh400 million) to the Kenyan branch to upstage the business in Kenya.

Mr Omari told the court Mr Koome began requesting the money wired into the SOL (K) Limited under the guise the money was for paying tax to Kenya Revenue Authority KRA.

The lawyer further said police through the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) officers moved swiftly to freeze the accounts of Mr Koome after receiving a complaint from Muhinyuza that his Kenyan co-director in SOL (K) Limited was embezzling company funds pretending he was going to pay tax for the online business.

The court further heard that Mr Koome had hatched a scheme to siphon the company money into his personal account.

Mr Omari opposed the accused being freed on bond saying he had disobeyed a court order requiring him to appear in court on October 6, 2023, towards charges of conspiracy to defraud SOL USD 2,619,583 (Sh 400M) being Marchants funds pretending he was the owner of the money.

Mr Omari said if the court was inclined to grant him bond then it should be in the region of Sh100million.

“There is no guarantee that the accused will turn up for plea taking on October 17, 2023, given his current conduct of disobeying a court order and disrespecting DCI officers who had requested him to present himself at DCI headquarters to record a statement,” said Omari.

In rebuttal, Mr Ombeta urged the court to free the suspect on bond as prayed by the DPP.

He argued that no compelling evidence has been presented before the court to prove the accused is a flight risk or a threat to the investigation.

In her ruling, Ms Kimilu said the DPP has called for the file for perusal and review of the charges.

She said no compelling reasons have been presented before her to compel the court to intervene and deny the accused bond.

Ms Kimilu granted the accused a cash bail of Sh500,000 with two conduct persons until October 17, 2023.

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