BY OLIVER MATHENGE for the STAR
September 12, 2015
The ICC has for the first time revealed details of an alleged multi-million shilling bribery scheme leading to withdrawal of prosecution witnesses from the Kenyan cases.
Two Kenyans arrested by local police on July 30 are at the centre of the alleged criminal witness tampering that cost the prosecution six witnesses against Deputy President William Ruto.
They are lawyer Paul Gicheru and Philip Bett, named in ICC arrest warrants issued in March.
While issuing a summons in a decision made public Thursday, ICC judge Ekaterina Trendafilova outlined how and when the two allegedly executed the plan to corrupt six witnesses.
Claims of witness tampering and obstruction of justice are critical to assertions by ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda that witnesses against Ruto were systematically bribed and intimidated.
They buttress her quest to admit initial statements as evidence, though they have recanted or withdrawn. Admission of prior statements will be appealed by Ruto and co-accused Joshua Sang on grounds they violate ICC rules of evidence.
Both are accused as indirect perpetrators of orchestrating the 2008-08 post-election violence.
Lawyer Paul Gicheru is described as the manager of the scheme and the court says he used Philip Bett and Walter Barasa, whose arrest warrant was issued on 2013.
“The Single Judge considers there existed an organised and well-coordinated scheme involving both Paul Gicheru and Philip Bett, aiming at corruption of witnesses of the Prosecutor. While Paul Gicheru had an overall coordinating role in the effort to corrupt witnesses, Philip Bett participated under Gicheru’s direction in implementation to certain witnesses,” the ICC judge said.
According to the judge, Gicheru is accused of the crime of corruptly influencing a witness, by paying Witness P-397 Sh1 million and offering to pay the witness Sh5 million to withdraw.
Judge Trendafilova says this crime was committed from April 2013 to January 2014 in Eldoret.
The judge also says Gicheru either offered or paid Witness P-516 a bribe of at least Sh500,000 to withdraw.This happened in April and May 2013 in Eldoret, she says.
Between April and September 2013, Gicheru allegedly offered to pay Witness P-613 a bribe and made a job-offer inducement to withdraw.
The ICC document also indicates Gicheru allegedly paid Witness P-800 a bribe of between Sh1.5 million and Sh2.5 million around July 2013.
It says the witness was introduced to Gicheru by Bett, who took him to the office of Mitei & Company advocates where he signed an affidavit to withdraw from the case.
The ICC says around September 2013, Gicheru allegedly paid a bribe of Sh2.5 million to Witness P-495 and offered a job in exchange for withdrawal.
Between May and August 2013, Gicheru paid a bribe of either Sh1 million or Sh1.4 million to Witness P-536 as part of the scheme, ICC documents indicate.
The ICC claims the witness was contacted by Barasa numerous times between May and August 2013 for the purpose of offering a bribe.
“Walter Barasa explicitly promised Witness P-536 a payment of at least Sh1.4 million. Barasa told the witness Paul Gicheru was in charge but he did not contact the witness directly because he should not be exposed,” Judge Trendafilova said.
Bett is to be charged with criminal responsibility for offences against the administration of justice as a direct co-perpetrator.
The ICC judge says alternatively, he can be charged with contributing in any other way to the commission or attempted commission by a group of persons acting with a common purpose of corruptly influencing witnesses.
It is alleged Bett was the link between some witnesses and Gicheru. He is said to have organised meetings between the witnesses and Gicheru and also used them to reach out to other witnesses.