The embattled former Swiss ambassador to Kenya, Jacques Pitteloud, has claimed that top State officials knew about an alleged Sh5 billion settlement with one of the chief suspects of the Anglo Leasing scandal, businessman Deepak Kamani.
Mr Pitteloud is facing a police investigation in Switzerland over accusations that he solicited a Sh5 billion bribe from Mr Kamani to help him avoid corruption investigations linked to Swiss companies including banks.
But the diplomat has maintained that the cash was intended to be an official plea-bargain settlement with the controversial businessman.
Mr Pitteloud, who currently holds a senior position at the Swiss Foreign Affairs Ministry, said in an interview with the Business Daily that senior officials in the Attorney-General’s office and the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) “knew everything” about the proposed Sh5 billion deal.
He claims the deal was agreed by the two states and presented to the controversial billionaire businessman as a proposed settlement for Anglo Leasing proceeds he illegally gained in lieu of his prosecution.
“Everybody in both legal systems, Kenya and Switzerland, were aware that we were aiming for a deal with the Kamanis and we offered them a deal which they didn’t take. The offer was made on instruction from both legal authorities of Kenya and Switzerland,” Mr Pitteloud told the Business Daily in the interview from Switzerland.
Mr Kamani who is currently facing corruption charges in Kenya is accused of having been involved with others in a scheme to defraud the government of tens of billions of shillings through flawed security equipment supply contracts, commonly referred to as the Anglo Leasing scandal.
“EACC and the Attorney-General knew exactly what we were doing. They knew about the offer for a deal. If you are entering the phase of a very difficult court case and you know it will be a very long thing and it will cost a lot of money not only for the accused but also to the states that are prosecuting it’s fairly usual to go tell them reimburse the money you have stolen we forget the case and then justice will be done,” Mr Pitteloud said.
Mumo Matemu was the head of the EACC and Githu Muigai the AG when the deal was supposedly struck.
The top Swiss diplomat broke his silence days after the Swiss government ordered investigations on him to unravel the alleged bribery scheme during his five-year stint in Kenya.
Mr Kamani has claimed in papers filed in Kenyan and Swiss courts that Mr Pitteloud tried to extort money from him at his Nairobi Kyuna residence in May last year.
In his suit papers, the tycoon attached copies of text messages between him and Mr Pitteloud and alleged that the Swiss ambassador threatened to initiate money laundering investigations against him if he did not pay up the billions of shillings he was asking for.
On Monday, the Switzerland Attorney-General’s office confirmed to the Business Daily that it had instructed the country’s police to investigate the former Swiss ambassador to Kenya on claims that he solicited a bribe from the Kenyan businessman.
“The Office of the Attorney-General of Switzerland (OAG) has taken note of the decision made by the Appeals Chamber of the (Swiss) Federal Criminal Court on 29 June 2016 in relation to the no-proceedings order issued by the OAG on 7 March 2016,” said the Swiss AG in a statement.
“The Appeals Chamber of the Federal Criminal Court upheld the appeal in respect of the offence of attempted coercion. The OAG has therefore requested the (Swiss) Federal Department of Justice and Police for authorisation to bring a prosecution in respect of this particular offence.”
Mr Pitteloud, however, termed Mr Kamani’s allegations as preposterous, saying even by virtue of his position as an ambassador he would not have been able to manipulate the Kenyan and Swiss prosecution authorities as alleged by the Kamanis.
“Such a preposterous allegation shows a total ignorance of how separation of powers works in both countries. It’s a total misunderstanding of the Swiss legal system. As ambassador even if you pay me Sh100 billion, I cannot stop an investigation. I can only do it if the Swiss Attorney General has told me to strike a deal,” he said.
Reached for comment, however, Prof Muigai distanced himself from the claims saying settlements are not handled by his docket. “Settlements are handled by EACC and the Asset Recovery Agency,” said Prof Muigai.
The EACC deputy chief executive Michael Mubea however admitted knowledge of the supposed deal.
Mr Mubea, in an interview, said Mr Kamani is hitting back at the Swiss envoy because he was instrumental in getting the anti-graft watchdog evidence from Switzerland on his corrupt deals.
“We were involved. Jacques was trying to midwife a settlement,” said Mr Mubea.
But Mr Pitteloud said Kenyan officials were fully engaged, noting “this is something I could not have possibly done without the consent of both the Kenyan authorities and Swiss authorities which we had.”
Mr Pitteloud said the Sh5 billion figure was arrived at based on rough estimates which showed it could have been the amount the Kamanis might have illegally benefited from the Anglo Leasing scam.
“The Sh5 billion was an estimate of how much the Kamanis had stolen from the Anglo Leasing scandal and we felt that this money should be given back to the Kenyan people,” said Mr Pitteloud.
He said he will be vindicated by the impending investigations by Swiss Authorities.
Deepak Kamani and his brother, Rashmi Kamani, had claimed in court documents filed in both Swiss and Kenyan courts that Mr Pitteloud tried to extort $55 million (about Sh4.8 billion) from him in exchange for assistance to terminate money laundering investigations by Swiss authorities.
Last May the Kamani brothers filed a complaint before the Swiss Federal Prosecutor claiming Mr Pitteloud attempted to force them into giving him the money in exchange for the case being dropped.
On June 29, the Swiss Federal Criminal Court ordered that the diplomat be investigated for the alleged crime.
Following the fresh ruling by the Swiss Federal Criminal Court, the Swiss AG has now ordered investigations on the diplomat with the specific accusation of coercion.