Four Yagnesh Devani co-accused in Triton oil saga set free

Businessman Yagnesh Devani

Businessman Yagnesh Devani (right) and his lawyer Hillary Kiplagat at the Milimani Law Courts in Nairobi on February 12, 2024.

Photo credit: Dennis Onsongo | Nation Media Group

A Nairobi court on Monday acquitted four people who were charged alongside tycoon Yagnesh Devani with the theft of fuel worth more than Sh1 billion at the Kipevu Oil Refinery in Mombasa in 2008.

Mr Samson Waka and Mr Peter Muthungu of KCB Bank, Mr Mahindra Pathak, a former finance manager with Triton Petroleum Company Limited and Mr William Mundia, were freed by Milimani Senior Principal Magistrate Zainab Abdul for lack of evidence. She ruled that the evidence tabled by the prosecution was not sufficient to sustain trial or place the four on their defence.

The four had been charged with discounting Triton invoices at KCB amounting to $12,241,873.90 (Sh1,946,457,950.10) when no oil had been sold by Triton.

The four were tried in Mr Devani’s absence after he fled the country in 2008 and only came back to Kenya after losing an appeal seeking to stop his extradition in the UK.

The bank employees were accused of failing to prevent the theft of Sh1.9 billion belonging to the lender. Mr Devani was charged last month and released on a cash bail of Sh1 million.

Yesterday, Senior Principal Magistrate Robinson Ondieki gave Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Renson Ingonga one month to supply Mr Devani with all the evidence he intends to rely on in his defence. Appearing before the magistrate yesterday, Mr Devani, who is being defended by lawyer Moses Kurgat, informed the court that the State was yet to furnish him with witness statements and documentary evidence in the case.

Mr Ondieki allowed the DPP's request for more time to supply the documents. He directed the case to be mentioned on March 26 for pre-trial directions. Hearing will commence on April 8.

Mr Devani was on the run for 16 years until January when he was extradited from Britain and detained at Muthaiga Police Station.

On January 23, police presented him before Mr Ondieki where he denied four counts related to the irregular sale of petroleum products acquired through loan facilities given to his firm by KCB.

He was accused of committing the offence between April 23 and December 4, 2008 at Kipevu Oil Storage facility in Mombasa.

In an alternative charge, Mr Devani was accused of disposing of mortgaged jet fuel, jointly with others, with intent to defraud KCB. The second count stated that he stole 418.134 metric tonnes of motor spirit premium valued at $438,031.10, belonging to KCB. It is alleged that he committed the offence on diverse dates between April 23 and December 4, 2008 at Kipevu Oil Storage facility in Mombasa.

Mr Devani has claimed in a petition pending before the High Court that KCB has since sold all his assets listed in the deed of settlement including Karen Cross Road Mall, Lang’ata Road Arcade, Westland Plaza along Waiyaki Way, 60 acres of land in Karen and over 20 other properties, most of them petrol stations that belonged to Triton.

He added that his business took a downturn in 2008 when global petroleum prices suddenly plummeted due to the economic recession of 2007 to 2009, thus greatly hampering his company’s ability to meet the terms of the respective agreements executed with KCB and other financiers.