The International Criminal Court (ICC) has revealed that Kenyan lawyer Paul Gicheru, who is accused of corruptly influencing witnesses in a case against the country’s Deputy President William Ruto, met and made cash payments to the witnesses.
Gicheru is accused of corruptly influencing witnesses in contravention of article 70(1)(c) of the Rome Statute in the corrected version of documents containing the charges released by ICC on April 8.
The lawyer is said to have influenced the witnesses by making cash payments, intimidation and threats, including at gunpoint on behalf of Ruto.
Gicheru and associates identified, located and contacted prosecution witnesses and then influenced them to withdraw as witnesses and recant their evidence.
ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said that although Gicheru’s team promised the witnesses a lot of money, they were never paid in full. Some of the witnesses, Bensouda said, were later threatened.
In the case of Witness P-0397 who had been promised Sh5 million, the court revealed that he only received Sh1 million.
Another Witness, P-800, told the prosecution that even though he was promised Sh2 million, he only received Sh50,000 from Gicheru to travel and meet another witness, P-0495, to persuade him to withdraw.
During that period, the anti-ICC sentiment was particularly fierce in the Rift Valley region and persons cooperating with the ICC, particularly suspected prosecution witnesses, were regarded as traitors and widely vilified and intimidated in public discourse and in the media, leading to an atmosphere of fear and suspicion.
Bensouda says the lawyer was the head of the Common plan especially between 2012 and 2014. The Common Plan consisted of a network of individuals associated at different levels and included Silas Kibet Simatwo, Isaac Maiyo and Elisha Kipkorir Busienei. Others included the late Meshack Yebei, Philip Kipkoech Bett, Walter Barasa and Sammy Kiptanui Kosgei.
At the time, Simatwo was an influential businessman and long-time business associate of Ruto and was the head of the board of Directors of AMACO Insurance.
Busienei, a former ODM member and political ally of Ruto, was elected Turbo MP in 2013.
The two are said to have successfully corrupted witnesses P-0397, P-0800, P-0495, P-0516 and P-0341.
Gicheru allegedly told both P-0397 and P-0800 that he was a close friend of Ruto and that they had attended Kapsabet High School together.
Gicheru also represented P-0015 who was one of the first prosecution witnesses to withdraw, and he commissioned an affidavit dated February 7, 2013.
In November last year, Gicheru informed the court that he would not admit the charges levelled against him, adding that his surrender was voluntary and without any coercion.
This surrender was without coercion from anybody, it was voluntary and I did so at my own expense,” he added.
The arrest warrant against Gicheru and Bett was issued under seal on March 10, 2015 and unsealed on September 10 the same year. However, Bett is still at large.