Police officers are pocketing up to Sh100 million a month collected from suspects who are misled to believe that they are paying cash bail.
Investigations by the Interior Ministry, which is in charge of security, show that unscrupulous officers involved in the racket have devised ways to evade anti-corruption officials by insisting that suspects deposit the cash at police stations. Many of the cases are not taken to court after the suspects pay the bail. However, those who pay are later coerced to forfeit the money.
Kenya Police spokesperson Zippora Mboroki acknowledged that all was not well in the service and investigations had already been launched into the scandal.
“We do not have the details. The Ministry of Interior officials should be in a position to give the information,” she said.
The Nation has established that auditors from the Ministry of Interior and Co-ordination of the National Government have visited several police stations to audit their cash bail books after reports emerged that the officers involved in the racket were working with their colleagues at police headquarters who have acquired a parallel set of cash bail receipt books which they use to siphon the money deposited by suspects or persons under investigations.
Two weeks ago, the auditors visited Buruburu police division where the traffic boss failed to account for the money collected through cash bail. The investigators also questioned his predecessor, who had been transferred to Embakasi.
Buruburu OCPD Richard Kerich told the Nation that he and his team were yet receive the final audit report.
“The audit was not done at Buruburu alone. We have, however, not been given the findings,” he said.
The audit was prompted by revelations that police officers especially from the traffic department were soliciting bribes through cash bail. Once the money is paid, the suspect is later forced to return the original receipts but the money is not returned.
For minor traffic offences like failing to wear a seat belt, the officers release the suspects on a cash bail of between Sh5,000 and Sh10,000 whereas such offences attract a fine of about Sh500 or a warning by the court.
“The corrupt officers know that most members of the public do not like going to court and they take advantage of this. In some cases, the suspects are released within the court precincts after forfeiting the cash,” said an investigator involved in the audit.
NOTICE TO ATTEND COURT
The racket is part of the reason why traffic police do not serve suspects with documents like the Notice to Attend Court, Notice of Intended Prosecution, or even papers to compel court attendance.
Traffic officers are required to issue the first notice to a person reasonably suspected of having committed any offence punishable only by a fine, or imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months. It informs the suspect which court to attend, the date and time.
The second notice is issued when police have not concluded that the suspect may appear in court, and is to inform them that the matter is being investigated. The notice should not be served later than 14 days from the date the offence was allegedly committed.
Besides traffic offences, there have been allegations that in some cases, police enhance the offences being investigated to more serious ones with the aim of making the suspects pay higher bail, which they later forfeit and the charges are dropped.
In one instance from 2012 for example, CID officers from Embakasi arrested a suspect (name withheld) and later released him on a cash bail of Sh20,000. Though the detectives were investigating a case of theft, the cash bail receipt signed by a Sergeant Mwaura indicated that the suspect was being investigated for robbery. The suspect was never taken to court and the money he deposited was never returned to him.
Initial findings of the audit revealed that in some cases, corrupt officers insist that suspects pay cash bail even for offences for which bail is unnecessary. Those who pay the bail either lose the money or are only refunded a fraction of it in exchange for being spared a court appearance.
Interior Ministry spokesman Mwenda Njoka when contacted for a comment on the investigations said that he did not have details.
He said: “We know there is so much happening in police stations. However, we are yet to get the report of the auditors.”
Source: Daily Nation