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ICC Prosecutor: Ruto was the Big Man behind witness bribery, intimidation

ICC Prosecutor: Ruto was the Big Man behind witness bribery, intimidation

By John Kamau, editor,

The trial of lawyer Paul Gicheru (pictured) at the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague, Netherlands, opened on Tuesday with Deputy President William Ruto’s name featuring prominently as the most instrumental figure in prosecution witnesses’ bribery and intimidation.

In the first 30 minutes of the prosecution’s presentation of evidence, Ruto was mentioned 18 times as the Big Man who wanted no stone unturned in cajoling or bribing prosecution witnesses to recant their testimonies.

ICC Deputy Prosecutor James Stewart told the court witness P-0274 was a key witness and was so important that Ruto AKA "THE BIG MAN" was interested to meet him in person.

P-0274 was promised a Sh2 million bribe, and his job was to record a false video stating that ICC Prosecution coached him to give false evidence against Ruto.

What followed after the job was done was threats and intimidation, and instead of getting the Sh2 million Gicheru promised him, he only got Sh30,000.

P-0274 avers that Gicheru also asked him to give him names of other prosecution witnesses, and that the BIG MAN (who P-0274 understood to be Ruto), "wanted no stone to be left unturned".

Stewart told the court "witness management" was being carried out, under a close collaboration of Gicheru, Isaac Maiyo (former CDF Chairman, Eldoret) and a Silas Simatwo.

 Simatwo was the "head of treasury" where money to induce the witnesses came from.

 Simatwo is named as the then Head of the African Merchant Assurance Company (AMACO), which is directly linked to Ruto, who was giving the witness orders then.

The first prosecution witness said he was offered a bribe to recant all his testimonies.

Gicheru is accused of interfering with witnesses in the DP William Ruto case that was terminated in 2015.

A terminated case can be revived if there is new evidence. 

Witness P0800 said those who offered the bribe asked him never to appear before the court when needed to testify.

The witness said the people behind the scheme approached him on more than one occasion in the same location in Kenya.

 “The very first approach was done by Person Number 2. It was done by telephone and then in person. He contacted me and then we met,” he said.

The new revelations emerged on the first day of lawyer Gicheru's trial at the International Criminal Court based in the Hague, Netherlands.

A calm and collected, smartly dressed Gicheru denied all the eight lengthy charges read out to him by a court clerk.

He only spoke twice when the judge acknowledged his presence and when he took the plea.

Witness Po800 said he immediately contacted ICC prosecutors following the development “because he did not want the case to collapse.”

“I was asked to make sure I record every conversation and I accepted,” he said.

Witness P0800, who was testifying during the commencement of the trial, said he was keen to get the information about who had sent Person Number 2 and how much he was willing to give.

The prosecution led by Stewart and Anton Steynberg, said they believe Gicheru committed offences against the administration of justice in order to undermine the case against Ruto and then Kass radio presenter Joshua arap Sang.

The defence team was led by Michael G Karnavas and Suzana Tomanovi.

The prosecution said it has lined up evidence to show money to interfere with witnesses came from Ruto through Gicheru, who was based in Eldoret.

Steynberg said Gicheru organised a systematic criminal scheme aimed at approaching and corrupting witnesses through bribes and other inducements in exchange for their withdrawal as witnesses and/or recantation of their prior statements to the prosecution.

 “When evidence is corrupted, justice is denied. Those seeking to undermine the court’s ability to offer redress to injustices must not be allowed to walk free,” Steynberg said.

He noted that when dropping the charges against Ruto and Sang, the judges condemned levels of interference of witnesses.

The court heard that interference commenced in early 2013 and Gicheru coordinated a scheme to identify and locate potential witnesses through bribery and intimidation.

The court was further told that four key witnesses withdrew from the case.

Steynberg said Gicheru did not work alone and that there were two suspects who are still at large.

Steynberg said another witness P0540 disclosed to P0800 that “The Big Man” offered him Sh1.5 million and additional expenses “to join the Big Man’s team and withdraw his assistance to the ICC.”

Steynberg added that they have bank records showing huge sums of money deposited, which confirms what witnesses have said.

He said they will also provide the court with recorded messages between the accused and witnesses and bank texts confirming the deposits.

He said Gicheru was the key manager at his office in Eldoret and decided which witnesses were to be targeted and the amounts to be given to them.

“He ensured money was available for them and assigned tasks to locate the witnesses in and outside Kenya,” he told the court.

The ICC issued an arrest warrant against Gicheru and Philip Kipkoech Bett on March 10, 2015.

On November 2, 2020, Gicheru surrendered to the authorities of The Netherlands pursuant to this arrest warrant for offences against the administration of justice consisting in corruptly influencing witnesses of the court.

On November 3, 2020, he was surrendered to ICC custody after the completion of the necessary proceedings.  The first appearance of Gicheru before the court took place on November 6, 2020.

On July 15, 2021, ICC Pre-Trial Chamber A confirmed the charges of offences against the administration of justice brought by the prosecutor against Gicheru and committed him to trial.

The offences against the administration of justice (Article 70(1)(c) of the Rome Statute) were allegedly committed between April 2013 and the termination of the Ruto and Sang case on September 10, 2015, in Kenya.

Ruto and Sang were accused of crimes against humanity (murder, deportation or forcible transfer of population and persecution) allegedly committed in the context of the 2007-2008 post-election violence in Kenya.

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