Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji talked to the Sunday Nation on the war on corruption, the recent conviction of Sirisia MP John Waluke, Triton scandal, dams scandal, and more.
After the emphatic victory in the Waluke case, what do we expect next from your office?
There are many cases in court involving big shots which are almost at the tail-end. We also have a number that investigators are finalising in the coming weeks. I will order the prosecution of firms and individuals, some of whom are well-connected.
How about the cases that have cross-border connections, such as the Triton scandal, Akasha brothers and the Kimwarer and Arror dams scam?
We have requested the British government to help extradite fugitive billionaire Yagnesh Devani to face charges related to the Sh7.6 billion Triton scandal. But Devani has filed a case at the Supreme Court in the UK in efforts to stop his extradition. If he loses the case, he will be on the first flight home to face trial.
The matter of Arror and Kimwarer dams is very complex and we are on the investigations.
On the Akasha brothers, we are waiting for more information from the US prosecutors so that we finalise our investigations. Don’t forget that the brothers were convicted largely based on the evidence we provided. We are doing this as a result of increased partnership between Kenyan investigators and prosecutors and those from other countries, especially in conducting investigations and training.
Whom have you collaborated with in the prosecutions and training?
The conviction of Sirisia MP John Waluke is a result of the cross-border collaborations. On May 28, the court allowed one of the directors of Emirates National Oil Company Ltd, one of the companies Mr Devani defrauded, to testify via video link from Singapore.
We are training 150 prosecutors on financial crimes in partnership with an organisation known as the Attorney General Alliance-Africa. The organisation is made up of legal professionals consisting of attorneys-general, prosecutors, law enforcement officers and subject matter experts. It provides training in transnational crime such as human trafficking, trafficking in firearms, drug trafficking, money laundering, child pornography, internet crimes and corruption.
The latest training, which ended last Friday, was conducted by Marcus Green, who served as the Executive Assistant Attorney-General for the State of New Jersey and Xavier Cunningham, an assistant United States Attorney in the Department of Justice. Our other partners include Lawyers Without Borders, the UK Crime Prosecution Services and the Basel Institute of Governance, based in Switzerland.
Has the investment in the training been reflected in convictions?
Our conviction rate, especially for corruption cases, is now amazing. For instance, in 2015, the conviction rate was just 30.43 per cent, with only seven convictions and more than twice acquittals. So far this year, the conviction rate is at 66.67 per cent, with 12 convictions and only six acquittals.
Between 2015 and 2017, the conviction rate was 41.3 per cent while in the past two years – since I came to office – the conviction rate is at 58.7 per cent. Of the number of convictions from 2015 to 2020, 58.9 per cent were obtained between 2018 and 2020. This is a great success.
Other than the training and collaboration, what else has contributed to this success?
When I came into office, I discovered that prosecutors were among the least paid and appreciated among the various players in the justice sector. It was a poorly enumerated workforce, with little morale. We engaged the Salaries Review Commission, which raised the salaries and allowances given to prosecutors to competitive levels.
There was also very little specialisation. We now have nine specialised divisions: Anti-corruption, Proceeds of Crime, Banking and Financial Crime, Transnational Organised Crime, Counterterrorism, Sexual and Gender-based Violence, Juvenile Justice, Judicial Revision and Petition and Hate Speech and Election Justice.
We are also establishing the Prosecution Training Institute, which will be the first institution for prosecutors and the criminal justice system in Kenya and East Africa.
Despite the reforms, there are claims that the prosecution office is still rife with corruption.
Corruption had become endemic in this country. Not even this office was spared. But we have made progress in dealing with it. Recently, we established the Internal Compliance Unit (ICU), which is the equivalent of the Internal Affairs Unit in the National Police Service. The ICU will be prosecuting prosecutors accused of various crimes.
We are also on course to establish the inspectorate arm of the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP). There was a ruckus after I appointed former chief justice Bernard Chunga to head it. This is a matter in court. Once it is finalised, we will move to have the inspectorate.
Do we expect more changes in policy, especially on who decides who should be prosecuted? There has been confusion in the past on whether detectives from the DCI should take cases to court.
We have now ensured that only the Office of the Director of Criminal Prosecutions takes matters to court for prosecution, as this is our core mandate. To make the system more efficient, we have come up with a case management system and a central intake system through which investigators can feed whatever they are working on in an organised manner so that we know what is coming in and going out.
In the coming weeks, we will be launching policy guidelines dubbed Decision to Charge to guide prosecutors on when and how to charge a suspect. They will also stop abuse of the prosecution system, where some suspects are taken to court because of external influence and other factors.
Despite the good things that you have spoken about, there have been claims that your office is looking the other way on issues involving prominent personalities, like the murder of police officer Kipyegon Kenei.
I did not order the investigations into the scandal involving the former Cabinet secretary Rashid Echesa and the subsequent murder of Sergeant Kipyegon Kenei. I am sure once the detectives from the DCI are done with the investigations, they will share the report with my office.