Last week, the Akasha dynasty suffered its biggest setback in recent years when Kenyan and US agents raided the family residence in Nyali, Mombasa and arrested the late drug baron’s son and heir Baktash.
Also arrested were his younger brother Ibrahim, Indian drug felon Vijay ‘Vicky’ Goswami and Pakistani national Gulam Hussein.
It is now clear that although Kenyan police are thumping their chests over the arrest, US authorities actually dictated all the events since investigations on the suspects begun in March until they were arrested last Monday.
Documents, including an indictment seeking their extradition, suggest that agents from the US posing as South American drug barons seeking to import heroin and metamphentamine into the New York area, fooled the drug dealers. The documents show that the probe lasted between March and October, and spread across Pakistan, Afghanistan and several Middle East nations as well as Mombasa and Nairobi. The probe was also enabled through US laws that allow court-authorised audio, video and wire taps.
The indictment claims that US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents met Baktash, Ibrahim, Vijay and Gulan several times and recorded them between March and June this year after being misled to believe that DEA agents dealing with them were actual drug customers.
“Beginning in approximately March 2014, Baktash Akasha, Ibrahim Akasha, and Vijay Goswami began negotiating a multi-hundred kilogramme ship of heroin to be delivered to confidential sources acting at the direction and under supervision of the US. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) posing as representatives of a South American drug trafficking organisation (DTO) intended to import the heroin to the US for distribution, principally in New York…,” says the indictment and arrest warrant signed by New York magistrate-judge Gabriel Gorenstein on October 28.
The three were reportedly taped discussing the proposed importation of the drugs with the fake South Americans, with Baktash maintaining “an ownership interest in the shipment until it was delivered to and sold in the US.”
Further, the US indictment claims the three were taped in a court-authorised wiretap discussing “the high quality of the heroin needed for distribution in the US, their access to suppliers of large quantities of high quality heroin, prices for the heroin, transportation routes for the heroin, and their history of producing and distributing controlled substances (including heroin and methamphetamine).” The recordings were made between March and June, but it is not clear whether the US agents were recording them in Nairobi or from the US.
The provisional arrest warrant from the US even suggested when the suspects should be arrested showing that Kenyans were following rather than initiating events. “Accordingly, this request for provisional arrest respectively asks the fugitives to be provisionally arrested on or about November 10, 2014, in order to thwart any efforts by the fugitives to destroy evidence and/or flee Kenya and avoid prosecution…,” says the warrant dated the same day. Questions abound in Mombasa as to how luck and choices finally ran out for Baktash in particular and the Akashas in general.
The Standard on Sunday has learned that besides the use of new technology and enabling US laws, the Akashas were also reckless on telecommunication equipment, sometimes using Skype to communicate with perceived drug barons across the Americas. US authorities, apparently, extracted several concessions from the Kenyan authorities.
There are indications that the joint team of detectives was led to the palatial Nyali residence by an informer and turncoat known to the Akashas, and who was detained in a fake raid at one of Mombasa’s posh hotels and “released” afterwards.
At the residence, police reportedly “found several children and women,” according to Akashas’ lawyer Cliff Ombeta, who told The Standard on Sunday that among those found in the raid on the Nyali residence was “an Indian (former) actress (Mamta) Kulkarni.” According to the Indian press, Mamta is Goswami’s companion and was detained by police during the raid, a claim Ombeta dismisses, saying “all the women and children were not arrested and the woman is free living in one of the houses in Nyali.”
In many ways, the Akasha family represented the face of impunity and survival in drug trafficking, aided by complicit or fearful police. At one time, the late patriarch of the family, Akasha Abdalla abducted and disarmed the late Price Chai, an investigator sent to probe him over drug related issues.
It is now believed that despite the patriarch’s death 14 years ago, the Akasha family remained powerful, apparently deploying its immense wealth to control police and some judicial officials in Mombasa and Nairobi. By no means will the family fall into ruin with this arrest, according to many analysts.
One of the unanswered questions following Baktash’s arrest is how or why the Akashas always retained firearms despite their record and reports of repeated misuses of the firearms. It is now a matter of public knowledge that immigration and intelligence officials slept on the job once again as Vijay, a convicted felon, was allowed into Kenya late 2012 or early last year. Vijay resided with a man the US DEA now describes as “the leader of an organised crime and drug trafficking network,” that spanned three continents.
The Standard on Sunday can now report that as the noose tightened against Baktash and Ibrahim, Kenyan authorities disbanded the entire Anti-Narcotics Unit (ANU) in Coast’s six counties, withdrew vehicles and shut down offices.
The Standard, our sister publication, exclusively reported the disbandment of the ANU in Coast on November 10, indicating the process of disbandment began on October 9 through a series of letters between Inspector General of Police David Kimaiyo and the Criminal Investigations Department CID. Reports show that the 28 officers were sent away on disciplinary grounds to far flung areas on a Sh10,000 transfer allowance.
“We were transferred one month ago. Why have we not been replaced? We suspect some people want to do something before we are replaced,” an officer told The Standard early last week, claiming that the ANU head, Hamisi Masa, held a vendetta against all the unit’s officers in Mombasa and was punishing them.
Dr Masa dismissed claims of a witch-hunt or victimisation and described the mass transfers as “routine” then admitted that “I am the one who initiated them.” He did not explain why he initiated the transfers or on what legal authority he was acting on.
However, The Standard on Sunday has learnt that the disbandment was forced on the police by the US in order to weaken the Akashas’ perceived protection right.
It is not clear whether Baktash was in touch with any ANU officials in the Coast, if he was aware of the unit’s mass transfer or whether he tried to flee as predicted by US agents.
Baktash, the pillar of the family since his father’s murder in the Netherlands in May 2000, and his estranged brother Tinta have a series of past criminal investigations on their heads. Other family members have been linked to violent crimes, including car robberies. Baktash and his late brother Kamaldin had just been arrested over police claims they had been found with 900 kilogrammes of hashish when their father was killed. The two were later acquitted.
Following Akasha’s murder in 2000, the family, which is composed of sons from three wives, descended into a violent succession war that led to the death Kamaldin who was shot at a petrol station in Makupa, Mombasa. Kamaldin was perceived to be a notorious and cunning son.
Nurdin Abdalla Akasha, popularly known as Tinta, was investigated and detained for Kamaldin’s murder but released without charge. Kamaldin, Kamal and Baktash are said to have been their father’s favourite sons, with reports indicating that Kamaldin had been poised to inherit Akasha’s mantle before he was killed.
Baktash was investigated for Kamal’s death but was also set free without charges. He was, however, to be caught up in another controversy soon after when his wife Suad was found dead and hanging by a string in his house in Nyali.
She was buried amid controversy over the cause of death. Following pressure from family members, the body was exhumed an autopsy conducted. The results of the autopsy have never been made public and investigations into her murder have not been concluded to date.
Meanwhile, according to the US indictment and warrant of arrest, Ibrahim was “a chief lieutenant in Baktash’s organised crime and drug trafficking activities” while Gulam is depicted as a “transporter of mutli-hundred kilogramme quantities of heroin in the Middle East, including from Afghanistan and Pakistan region to East Africa.”
Vijay is described as “the principal manager of Baktash’s drug manufacturing and distribution business.” According to the indictment, Vijay and Baktash introduced the US undercover agents to Gulam, also known as Hussein Shabaksh, and who is described as “the largest transporter of heroin in the world.”
In a recorded conversation, the first three suspects discussed Gulam’s past exploits, including the shipment of 340 kilogrammes of “heroin concealed in the fuel tanks of a shipping vessel that was interdicted off the Coast of Mombasa in the summer of 2014.”
Baktash, Ibrahim and Vijay also began negotiating the sale of “93 per cent pure methamphetamine” to the false barons, according to the documents which further allege that Baktash, Ibrahim and other unnamed people met at Baktash’s residence in Nairobi around September 22 and October to deliver a kilogramme sample of methamphetamine to the fake buyers. They allegedly believed it was to be tested by the alleged barons, but the sample ended up in a DEA laboratory in the US which determined that it was 93 per cent pure.
In October, a DEA agent in the US recorded Baktash, Vijay and Gulam during the testing of the drug. Earlier this month, Baktash and Vijay asked the agent to come to Kenya “in order to take delivery of 10 additional kilogrammes of methamphetamine, for a price of $8,500 (Sh767,124) per kilogramme, and approximately 97 kilogrammes of heroin…for importation to the US.”