People Daily Team
It is emerging that suave, confident and seemingly well-connected impostors were the architects and purveyors of a multimillion-shilling fake gold scam that has not only thrown into the mix the country’s big political names, but also nearly pushed Kenya and the United Arab Emirates into a diplomatic row.
If Nikolai Gogol’s characters in an acclaimed play Government Inspector Bobchinsky and Dobchinsky managed to make absolute fools of administrators of an imminent but incognito visit of a top government official to their province, a couple of smart and smooth-tongued operators with capacity to mimic the voices of top government officials, took a relative of the Emir of UAE for a long expensive ride in the name of buying gold—fake gold.
With connivance and assistance of security personnel, politicos and government officials and in what now reads like a script from a Hollywood blockbuster, detectives have begun piecing together how Ali Zandi, a nephew of the Emir of UAE Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum was conned of Sh400 million.
Investigations have shifted to a man the sleuths have only identified as Mukiri who apparently was impersonating Interior Cabinet secretary Fred Matiang’i. He was at the epicentre of the melodrama; a man who with ease passed off as Matiang’i, acting the role of the authoritative man who would see to it that the gold was finally delivered to Zandi at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and, if need be, short-circuit the procedures if circumstances demanded so.
So elaborately orchestrated was Mukiri’s act that at one point he inspected a guard of honour to convince the Dubai businessman that he was indeed the Interior CS.
Meanwhile, details have also emerged that President Uhuru Kenyatta was approached by Sheikh Maktoum during a stop-over in Dubai while on his way from China, seeking his intervention to have the alleged detained gold released. It is at that point that the President ordered the crackdown now unraveling like a movie.
As police launched a manhunt of Mukiri, detectives traced the origin of the scheme to September 25, 2018 when a group of businessmen posing as gold dealers reportedly approached Zandi, who represents Zlivia Company—a Dubai-based gold trading firm—and promised they would deliver a five-tonne gold consignment from DR Congo which was to be transported by road via Uganda and upon reaching Kenya, would be shipped to Dubai through JKIA.
To facilitate movement and avoid unnecessary police checks, the cargo was to bear the United Nations stamps.
In September 27, 2018, Mukiri reportedly used fake social media report claiming the gold had been detained at JKIA, prompting Zandi to seek the help of Senator Moses Wetang’ula to have the consignment released, given his networks as former Foreign Affairs Minister.
On December 15, last year, Wetang’ula flew to Dubai on the invitation of Zandi and while there, assured he would help to have the cargo released, even posting on his Twitter account about negotiating trade deals between Kenya and the UAE.
The senator is said to have invoked the name of Matian’gi and further claimed he wanted Sh200 million before he would act to release the consignment, a figure declined by Zlivia officials.
Contacted for comment, Wangui Muchiri an aide to CS Matiang’i referred us to the Directorate of Criminal Investigations boss George Kinoti, whom she said had taken over the matter. Kinoti had last week said they have launched a probe into the matter and that preliminary investigations had indicated Wetang’ula for active involvement in the saga.
Security sources said so meticulous is Mukiri in his mimicking of Matiang’i that he has fashioned himself as the CS, whom he reportedly physically resembles.
As negotiations dragged, Zandi flew to Kenya where he was booked in a five-star hotel in Nairobi. The Sh200 million figure was finally reduced to Sh70 million and paid to the senator at the hotel.
However, on January 21, Zandi was the moved to yet another posh hotel off Waiyaki Way where sensing delay, he demanded to meet the senior official he was told was facilitating release of the cargo. It was at this point that he was driven to a house in Karen where he was to meet the Matiang’i, who turned out to be Mukiri.
When he arrived, he found the gate manned by heavily armed police officers. And soon after, “Matiang’i” arrived in a convoy, complete with a chase car and outriders. He would then inspect a “guard of honour”.
And to convince Zandi the consignment was ready, he was taken to a room full of boxes containing what in truth was fake gold. He was subsequently convinced that he would be taken to JKIA where a chartered plane would be loaded with the gold consignment and fly direct to Dubai.
Accompanying him was another flashy politician Zaheer Meriahi Jhanda, who posed as Matiang’i’s personal assistant. The Dubai businessman had planned to hire a foreign plane and but on Matiang’i’s (Mukiri) advice, he was convinced to get a local one, as it would attract less attention from government agencies.
“When he (Zandi) boarded the plane, he was led out because the CS Matiang’i had advised him not to accompany the cargo, since it was a security risk. This was despite his protests as he wanted to accompany his gold to Dubai,” said a source from the DCI.
He was then flown out of the country through Kisumu, to Uganda and finally to Dubai to await his consignment. Upon reaching the Dubai, he was told his cargo had again been detained at JKIA.
An infuriated Zandi then called Wetang’ula to protest the turn of events, in a conversation that has now been leaked online and in which the title President Uhuru and the name of former premier Raila Odinga are mentioned. Police are investigating the authenticity of the recording.
But the Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji appeared to exonerate the two, including Matiang’i of any culpability.
And yesterday, Jhanda brought a new twist into the saga, claiming that contrary to reports of Sh400 million scam, he was transporting gold worth Sh30 billion from DRC. In a TV interview, he claimed the consignment is yet to arrive in Kenya, asserting the deal is above board.