A report of the tribunal formed to investigate suspended High Court Judge Juma Chitembwe includes damning evidence adduced before the tribunal on how money changed hands in two cases – a property succession in Malindi and the impeachment of former Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko in which the embattled judge was on the bench.
The report indicates that the judge used a proxy to acquire a beneficial interest in a land parcel that was the subject of a case that he was presiding over at the High Court in Malindi.
Justice Chitembwe and Sonko acquired Sh305 million in a land deal in Kinondo, Kwale County.
It reveals that another unidentified judge in Malindi got Sh30 million for stepping in for Justice Chitembwe to deliver judgment in a succession case where the subject land was part of the estate.
The tribunal decision recommendation to remove Justice Chitembwe from office was pegged on the evidence that included telephone calls data and bank transactions.
In the 250-page report released Tuesday, another unidentified judge in Nairobi had demanded Sh5 million from Sonko to conclude an Sh100 million legal fees dispute pitting the former governor and a city lawyer.
Justice Chitembwe was to get a commission of Sh1 million from the deal.
His private engagements with Sonko’s aide Francis Wambua, State House official George Kariuki and lawyers during the impeachment case were contained in the report.
Sonko testified to the tribunal that he gave the judge Sh3 million through his ally Winnie Korir after he asked for it urgently.
The former governor also revealed that they had a meeting at Diani prior to his impeachment judgment on May 22, 2021, where they discussed his impeachment and land transaction.
In their conversation, Justice Chitembwe told Sonko that two of the three judges had accepted money in the case and advised him to double it to be safe.
“The Tribunal finds, therefore, that the Judge was engaged in the subversion of justice through commenting and advising a litigant on matters pending in court contrary to Article 75(c) of the Constitution, and Regulation 18 of the Code of Conduct and Ethics,” the Tribunal said.
Sonko was unable to raise the money due to the land transaction that was still pending.
The report further reveals that Justice Chitembwe and Sonko got Sh305 million in 2021 from the Consul of Nepal in Kenya Jimmy Ibrahim Askar, who said that some Nepalese investors approached him to assist them in identifying land to put up a hotel on the South Coast.
Askar identified two land parcels adjacent to each other, one belonging to Sonko and the other to Amana Jirani, a proxy for Justice Chitembwe.
The purchase price of both properties was Sh305 million.
Sonko and Justice Chitembwe agreed to team up and proceed with the transaction jointly.
However, the property they wanted to purchase had a case in High Court Malindi.
The judge intervened and reverted the ownership to Jane Mutulu.
The parties agreed to have Sh60 million paid at the Court of Appeal after the transaction with Nepalese was successful.
The report indicates that the judge also insisted that some money be taken to his house in dirhams and dollars and that “the ‘Maasais’ be dealt with through their advocate, Omwansa”.
The report also shows that held various meetings to discuss the withdrawal of the case at the Court of Appeal in Malindi, which was a result of his judgment in his residential home in Mountain View estate in Nairobi.
The tribunal noted that the Judge was aware that he was related to Sonko through marriage and had ongoing dealings with him over the sale of a parcel of land in Kindondo, Kwale County but never disclosed to fellow judges and the parties when he handled several petitions touching on Sonko.
While recommending his existence the tribunal said the judge lacks the integrity to continue holding office because he has breached the constitutional provisions on integrity and the judges’ code of conduct.
“The Tribunal finds that the breach by the Judge of these constitutional provisions and the Code of Conduct regulations amount to gross misconduct and misbehavior under Article 168(1)(e) of the Constitution,” the tribunal said.
Justice Chitembwe has 10 days to challenge his removal from the Judiciary as recommended by a tribunal appointed to probe his conduct.
The constitution allows a judge recommended for removal to challenge the decision of the tribunal at the Supreme Court, failure to which the President will act on the recommendation and strike out his name from the list of judges