Nairobi Governor Mike Mbuvi Sonko has denied a fresh Sh10 million bribery charge preferred by Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) Noordin Haji.
Sonko is accused of demanding that amount of money from Web Tribe Limited through ROG Security Limited as an inducement to facilitate payments by the county government.
He allegedly demanded the benefit from the company, which operates JamboPay, between January 10 and 19, 2019.
Former Governor Evans Kidero’s administration contracted the electronic payments firm in 2014 to supply, implement and maintain an automated revenue collection and payments solution for five years.
City Hall therefore relied on JamboPay’s electronic payment service, eJijiPay, to collect its revenue. The contract ended in April 2019.
The governor and his associate Antony Otieno Ombok alias Jamal and ROG Security denied the charge before Milimani Chief Magistrate Douglas Ogoti.
Sonko and Mr Ombok answered to the charges after the court dismissed an attempt by defence lawyers to temporarily stop them from taking plea.
Led by Danstan Omari, the defence team wanted the plea-taking suspended pending determination of an application Mr Ombok filed at the High Court. He is challenging the DPP’s decision to amend the charge sheet.
The charges against the accused include conflict of interest, abuse of office, conspiracy to commit corruption, money laundering and acquisition of proceeds of crime.
Mr Omari told the court that the accused will suffer prejudice and irreparable harm should the application be allowed by the High Court while the hearing proceeds at the lower court.
“If the judge rules in favour of the applicant the charge sheet will be invalid. The State won’t suffer any prejudice should the plea-taking get deferred to allow the High Court render its ruling,” said Mr Omari.
He was supported by the governor’s lawyers Cecil Miller, George Kithi and Harrison Kinyanjui.
But the magistrate dismissed the request, saying no argumentative points or materials had been tabled before the court to allow interference with the scheduled plea-taking.
While noting that the criminal trial has been delayed for nine months, Mr Ogoti said the accused could not have failed to answer to the charges in the absence of an order directing the trial court to suspend the exercise.
He also observed that during a pretrial conference last week, the defence team asked for seven days to familiarise itself with the amended charge sheet and the fresh accusation of bribery against the governor.
“After the court pronounces itself during a pretrial, such orders can only be vacated if challenged at the High Court. There is no order of stay (from the High Court),” said the magistrate.
He added that the High Court had not even certified as urgent the application to suspend the plea-taking.
Mr Ogoti further pointed out that Mr Miller had told the court that he was ready to proceed with the hearing, only to change his position when Mr Omari revealed that Mr Ombok had moved to the High Court to challenge the charge sheet.