What you need to know:
- High Court orders Mr Githongo to pay Dr Murungaru Sh20 million in general damages, Sh5 million in exemplary damages, and Sh2 million special damages.
- The case stemmed from the Anglo-Leasing scandal in which the Mwai Kibaki regime lost billions of shillings in phantom security printing contracts.
- The anti-corruption tsar and whistleblower has vowed to appeal ruling.
Anti-corruption tsar and whistleblower John Githongo has suffered a blow as the High Court has ordered him to pay former Cabinet minister Chris Murungaru Sh27 million for defamation.
In the ruling delivered on Thursday, the court in Nairobi directed Mr Githongo to pay Dr Murungaru Sh20 million in general damages, Sh5 million in exemplary damages, and Sh2 million in special damages.
The activist was also ordered to pay full interest on the award until Dr Murungaru receives all his money, and the costs of the suit.
The case stemmed from Anglo Leasing scandal in which the Mwai Kibaki regime lost billions of shillings in phantom security printing contracts.
The scam saw Anglo Leasing Finance paid Sh2.7 billion (at the current exchange rate) to supply the Kenyan government with a system to print new high-technology passports.
Other fictitious companies involved in the scandal that rocked the Kibaki regime in 2003-2004 were given money to supply naval ships and forensic laboratories, which were never delivered on time.
As President Kibaki’s adviser and permanent secretary for Ethics and Governance in the Narc administration, Mr Githongo had in 2005 prepared a dossier which linked Dr Murungaru, then vice president Moody Awori, and former Cabinet ministers Kiraitu Murungi and David Mwiraria to the multibillion-shilling Anglo Leasing scam.
The dossier contained detailed information of the fraudulent scheme, which begun with efforts to replace Kenya’s passport printing system. Even though the original price was €6 million (Sh681 million at current rates), the tender was eventually awarded to a British firm, Anglo Leasing and Finance, at €30 million (Sh3.4 billion).
The shadowy British firm would then sub-contract a French firm which had quoted the Sh681 million.
The report by Mr Githongo stated that the British firm was non-existent.
In the wake of the report and the increasing threats to his life and blackmail, Mr Githongo used the cover of an official government trip to London to go on exile from where he released a damning secret audio tape of Cabinet minister Mr Murungaru asking him to back off his Anglo Leasing investigations and in return they would clear his father of a loan he owed.
The revelations threw Mr Kibaki’s nascent administration into a spin and Narc never recovered as the scam remains a blot on Mr Kibaki’s presidency.
A book, It's Our Turn to Eat: The Story of a Kenyan Whistle-Blower by renowned journalist Michela Wrong tells the story of Anglo Leasing and how senior ministers in Narc administration were involved in corruption despite campaigning on a platform of integrity.
But while he lost the case, Mr Githongo on Thursday said the Sh27 million award is just one of the many setbacks he has suffered in the case that has dragged on for more than 13 years.
“I am disappointed though unsurprised by the judgment that has emerged from the High Court with regard to the Anglo-Leasing defamation matter...,” he said in a statement.
“The matter has drudged through the courts for 13 years and been heard by different judges. It is my plan to appeal this judgment as vigorously as possible.”
Mr Githongo, then a permanent secretary, resigned from the Cabinet and went into exile after lifting the lid on the scandal that threw Mr Kibaki’s nascent administration into a spin.
The activist has vowed to fight against mega corruption in government.
“Sadly, the Anglo Leasing model of misappropriation of resources from the Kenyan people has continued unabated since 2001,” he said.
“I refuse to lose perspective as a result of this latest development. Over the past six years in particular the plunder of public resources has accelerated to levels unprecedented in Kenyan history since independence.”
He added: “I remain committed to continuing the fight against corruption in Kenya and I’m undeterred by distractions engineered by the very thieves stealing from Kenyans.”