Former Sports Cabinet Secretary Rashid Echesa and three others will remain in police custody until Monday after a magistrate allowed detectives to hold them as they conclude investigations.
Senior Principal Magistrate Lucas Onyina also allowed the police to conduct a search in the houses of Mr Echesa, Mr Daniel Otieno, Mr Clifford Okoth and Mr Kennedy Oyoo Mboya. They will be held at the Muthaiga Police Station.
The police had sought to detain the suspects for 21 days, arguing that the three were likely to destroy evidence, mostly documents in their possession.
The court also heard that investigators needed to travel to the US to collect evidence and that releasing them would jeopardise the collection of evidence, some of which was found in Mr Echesa’s vehicles.
But through their lawyers, Evans Ondieki and Brian Khaemba, the suspects protested, saying their arrest was politically motivated.
They said the seizure was malicious given the day of arrest, the time and the number of days the police were seeking to hold them.
Mr Ondieki said there was no tangible evidence to support the claims and there was nothing to show that they were a threat to peace. He said the police were only “shopping for complaints”.
In an affidavit filed in court, police Constable John Munjama, who is attached to serious crimes unit at the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI), said he was investigating claims of making a document without authority.
The officer revealed that between October 7, 2019 and February 13, the suspects, with others not in court, made documents purporting to be genuine from the Ministry of Defence and Kenya Defence Forces.
They allegedly used the documents to prepare a contract between the Ministry and Eco Advanced Technologies LLC, a company belonging to Koziowski Stanley Bruno, an American.
He said they did so with the intention to obtain money from him by false pretenses.
The suspects, he added, were arrested as they were about to receive money from Mr Bruno by claiming that they could help him secure a tender.
NO SECURITY CHECK
The documents they allegedly prepared include an end-user certificate, a non-disclosure agreement, letters of award and an extension of notification of award letters, all from the Ministry of Defence.
Senior Principal Magistrate Onyina directed the police to conclude the search by 6pm on Monday and release the suspects on a bond of Sh1 million each. The case will be mentioned on February 18.
In one of the testimonies, one of the directors of Eco Advanced Technologies Company, which was allegedly approached by a member of the cartel from Kenya, said one of the people involved in the deals was a senior military officer who even attended one of the meetings in Lavington in the presence of uniformed escort and security personnel.
He also said the most crucial documents for the deals were signed in the boardrooms of the Harambee Annex Building and the Kenyatta International Convention Centre, where Mr Echesa was “recognised and highly respected” by the security personnel.
Mr Echesa, the director said, did not even go through security checks, so this and his demeanour convinced them that the deal was genuine.
The former minister is alleged to have swindled Sh11.5 million from the company as broker fee.
His job was to link the company to the government for the supply of drones worth Sh39 billion and other military equipment.
On Thursday, Mr Echesa was arrested on Harambee Avenue in Nairobi over his involvement in the deal.
It all started in October last year when a person identified as “Robert” contacted the directors of Eco Advanced Technologies through a link email on the company’s website.
He claimed to be a Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) employee working in the procurement department.
The correspondence culminated in several meetings in Lavington, Hemingways, KICC, Harambee Annex Building; Mr Echesa and others visiting Poland, where the company’s warehouse is located; the payment of Sh11.5 million and arrests and statements being recorded.
The DCI’s newly formed Special Service Unit discovered the fraudulent deal before further transactions could be made, but not before the directors of company had spent more than Sh50 million on the brokers’ consultancy fee and overseas travel.
The DCI is in possession of pictures Mr Echesa and the other suspects took while in Warsaw, Poland, where they purportedly went for the arms testing before the “military could procure them”.
When they approached the directors, the Kenyan consultants under company name Pizel asked those acting on behalf of the arms company to keep the whole deal discreet.
“The instructions were that the deal was highly secretive and that it could only be signed in Statehouse and Harambee House. If we let out the secret, we risked losing the deal,” the director of the company, who is Egyptian by nationality, told the DCI investigators.
A week ago, he said, Mr Rashid took them to the office of the Deputy President William Ruto at the Harambee Annex.
After making a number of calls, he says, Mr Echesa told him that the DP had stepped out but asked them to go ahead to ahead and sign tender documents.
By Friday evening, Mr Kinoti said investigations were going on and that the DCI had not arrested additional suspects.
The DCI is also analysing tender documents found both in the Office of the Deputy President and Echesa’s car to establish how the documents had the signatures of Defence Cabinet Secretary Monica Juma.
Mr Echesa was sacked from the Cabinet in March last year after he was arrested alongside other politicians in a probe into criminal gangs in Matungu, Kakamega County.