There was drama at the Milimani Law Courts yesterday when two High Court judges were arrested by detectives from the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) over bribery claims.
Aggrey Muchelule and Said Chitembwe were whisked away from their chambers alongside their aides and driven to the DCI headquarters on Kiambu Road for interrogation.
Before arresting the judges, detectives are said to have conducted a search in Justice Muchelule’s chambers for close to 30 minutes.
Both judges denied the bribery allegations, adding that their offices were searched but nothing was found.
“I am equally surprised like you are. They also questioned my clerk,” Justice Muchelule said.
Detectives from the DCI Serious Crimes Unit led by the head Obadiah Kuria, had obtained a warrant from a magistrate’s court to conduct the searches.
Speaking to People Daily after the judges were set free last evening, lawyer Danstan Omari termed the arrest a ploy by the State to intimidate them.
He claimed that there was an “elaborate attempt” by police to “plant” money in Justice Muchelule’s chambers in what would have been a ploy to nail him for allegedly receiving a bribe.
Cup of tea
“There was a conviction that money was planted in his office, they did a search but no money was found. Thank God Muchelule never moved outside his office,” said Omari.
He added: “It is a way to use the criminal procedures to tame him, to get him. This is the normal, we will revisit.
“They (judges) have since gone home but they will be recalled if needed to record another statement.
This is total abuse of the criminal process, against the independence of the judiciary.”
According to the lawyer, a mystery man walked into Justice Muchelule’s chambers purportedly to seek some “legal counsel” from him.
The judge decided to invite Justice Chitembwe to his chambers to listen to the man.
“The man then suggested that they discuss the matter over a cup of tea at a nearby restaurant but Justice Muchelule declined, saying he had several matters he needed to dispense with urgently,” said Omari.
Justice Chitembwe agreed to go with the stranger, only for detectives to pounce on the two outside the Milimani law courts, according to Omari.
The officers led the judge and the mysterious man back to Justice Muchelule’s chambers to conduct a search over an alleged Sh5 million bribery.
“It is after they failed to find the money they were looking that they whisked the two judges to the DCI headquarters.
The man somehow mysteriously disappeared as the search was going on,” said Omari.
The two judges recorded statements with the detectives before being set free.
Justice Muchelule was among the four High Court judges whose promotion to the appellate court was rejected by President Uhuru Kenyatta over alleged integrity issues. He is currently attached to the Family Division.
Described by his colleagues as affable, the Kakamega-born Muchelule was in 2013 elected by his colleagues to replace Justice Isaac Lenaola whose three-year term at the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) had ended.
Justice Chitembwe was among judges and lawyers who were interviewed for the position of Chief Justice to succeed David Maraga in April.
He is currently serving in the Civil Division of the High Court at Milimani.
During yesterday’s arrest, the two judges were accompanied by their clerks and support staff who were also released unconditionally.
Sources told People Daily that detectives were looking for evidence into claims relating to a Sh5 million bribe.
According to highly-placed sources within the DCI, police were looking for evidence that one of the judges had solicited a Sh5 million bribe over a case that is pending before court.
“We just wanted them to explain a few things,” a senior detective said.
The second judge was questioned over a property he is alleged to have taken from one of the parties in a case he presided over.
According to detectives, the property is registered under the judge’s relative’s name.
The arrests were condemned by senior lawyers who saw it an assault on the Judiciary by the Executive.
Senior Counsel Ahmednassir Abdullahi tweeted: “Acting on ‘manufactured intelligence’ that 2 judges of the High Court have tens of millions of shillings in the chambers & with a view to vindicate the Executive assertions that the judges are corrupt, security organs obtained search warrants from the magistrate’s court, Milimani.”
In June, President Kenyatta appointed 34 judges out of 41 who were recommended by the Judicial Service Commission for appointment, citing intelligence reports indicting the remaining ones on a number of issues which he did not disclose.
Others that were left out were justices Joel Ngugi, George Odunga and Weldon Korir, all currently serving as High Court judges.
The President also rejected Evans Makori and Judith Omange Cheruiyot, who had been recommended for promotion to the Labour Court. Several petitions have been filed to compel him to appoint the judges.
Courtesy People Daily