Uhuru, Raila names crop up in leaked tape on fake gold scam
Mystery deepened on investigations into the fake gold scam involving the United Arab Emirates royal family even as details emerged as to how Nairobi morphed into a citadel of fake gold.
A leaked audio recording of a conversation between a purported local fixer of the UAE middlemen muddied the waters of the ongoing probe into Sh400 million scam with names of President Uhuru Kenyatta and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga being dropped.In the fresh twist to the matter, the name of a Cabinet Secretary as well one of the 15 suspects detained were also mentioned in circumstances implying they tried to free nabbed gold.
And Jared Otieno, the businessman arrested in connection to fake gold scam appeared in court to say he was not part of the UAE investigations.“I have not heard it, I have not seen it. So I cannot comment on it,” State House Spokesperson Kanze Dena told the Saturday Standard yesterday when we sought to know the role the President may have played into the gold scam investigations.
Detained suspectsRaila’s ODM official Philip Etale also denied that the former Premier was contacted in regard to the fake gold.Police have so far detained several suspects in the fake gold syndicate that has defrauded dozens of unsuspecting foreigners in Nairobi.
The operation was triggered by a complaint by members of the Dubai royal family to the state.At the centre of the investigation is extortion of millions of shillings purportedly to secure release of five tonnes of gold allegedly seized at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) in Nairobi.The “seizure” was supposedly the first tranche of a 23-tonne gold consignment that was to be brought from the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The names of the President and Raila were reportedly dropped in the process of trying to rescue the tranche.Nairobi has earned the dishonourable distinction as the regional capital of fake gold, whose clients are being lured from the Middle East, South America and Europe. Investigations by the Saturday Standard show that following the takeover of gold trade in Nairobi by the underworld, legitimate dealers have been driven out of the country.
The millionaire kingpins with lavish lifestyles have been investing millions of shillings in luring wealthy foreigners eager to make quick money from discounted gold in shady deals.Following a spate of scams which have left foreigners counting huge losses that run into millions of shillings, the Director of Criminal Investigations (DCI) George Kinoti has warned investors to clear with relevant government agencies before engaging in gold trade.There are reports indicating that at least two Kenyans had been arrested in Dubai over the matter, while in Nairobi, Mr Kinoti has told embassies and high commissions to advise their nationals venturing in gold business to be wary of fraudsters.
How they operate“The gold scam has now reached alarming levels as unsuspecting foreign nationals are being swindled out of large amounts of money by fraudsters,” the DCI boss said.Fifteen suspects were arraigned in court on Tuesday, where the prosecution sought more time to conclude investigations.In a miscellaneous application, the prosecution said investigators needed time to establish the nationalities of three suspects – Abouma Famous, Salim Ali Abubakar and Albert Likole Lokunda.The investigators also said they were yet to confirm the validity of the metal bars alleged to be gold that were recovered in the respondents’ office on Kaputei Road in Valley Arcade, Nairobi.
The consignment bearing Ghanian custom papers was stuffed in metallic boxes and their weight altered using cement and mallets.
Eight vehicles belonging to the suspects bearing fake number plates were also seized during the raid. Our investigations show that the operators have formed an unholy alliance, whose leader is a self-effacing businessman and a number of members of parliament, rogue police officers, judiciary and immigration staff, as well as bankers.Investigators probing the scam said they have lifted the veil on the scammers who have woven intricate webs to snare their victims.According to insiders, the kingpin who is already in police custody, has marketers who are deployed in major cities around the world and booked in expensive hotels.“They frequent five-stars hotels, where they mingle with the super-rich, pretending to be successful businessmen with vast experience in gold trade.
They have impressive websites with company profiles purporting to have been in business for over 30 years,” said an investigator.If a potential client takes interest in the embellished gold deals from the fake marketer, they will be offered a deal to buy a gram of gold for Sh3,500 but on condition that they buy in bulk.This, according to conventional gold traders is a sweet deal. Kephers Ojuka, the chairman of Migori County Miners Association, said the rate is offered for raw, unprocessed gold.“The price of ungraded gold is Sh3,300 per gramme at the mines. Once it is taken to Migori town and cleaned, the price rises to Sh4,150 per gramme,” Mr Ojuka explains.Back to the scammers. If the buyer takes the hook, they are invited to Kenya.There is a house along Menelik Road where a number of foreign gold prospectors are taken and shown gold being smelted to make bars, ready for export.
On the day of the visit, some police officers will be hired and even would evn mount a parade for the visitor.“If the client is impressed, they will be told to pay a deposit equivalent to half the value of the gold they want to buy. I recently investigated a case where a Brazilian was taken to the house and later conned out of Sh86 million last year,” said Steve Odero, a private investigator.As soon as the money is deposited in foreign accounts, mostly in Turkey, Dubai or Qatar, it is wired into many other banks in different parts of the world.And as the foreign client waits for their gold to be processed, the host will hire choppers to fly the guest to exotic tourists resorts where they will be accorded VIP treatment.
Once the deposit is paid, an elaborate scheme is hatched to dispose of the guest.They will be taken to a bank vault and shown real gold bars, which are even tested to prove that the precious metal is real. The client will then be made to believe that the remaining consignment of gold is in a different city, such as Kisumu or Mombasa, where it will be fetched.The scammers travel by road, our sources indicated, ostensibly to offer the ‘tourist’ an opportunity to sample Kenya’s beauty. But in reality, it is to allow the scammers an escape route.“I was once recruited in a disposal operation. I was offered Sh5 million.
We got some policemen with an official car and trailed a victim who had just paid Sh60 million. On the way, we intercepted him and his hosts and confiscated the gold they were carrying,” a security source intimated.During the operation, the host spent Sh2.1 million to hire choppers and a further Sh20,000 per day in entertaining the victim before he was ultimately conned and dumped in a hotel in Mombasa.When he was busted, the foreigner disowned the gold because he was informed that it was a crime to conduct business in the country without a valid work permit.And as the protesting scammer was hurled out of the vehicle, the foreigner was driven to Mombasa where was booked in high-end resort as his host organised to bail his gold out.The prospector had to fork out more money to buy his gold back before he was later abandoned by the driver while his host in Nairobi switched off his phone.
There have been instances where prospectors have been shown gold in bank vaults and even told to appoint their clearing agents to ship it out.Upon returning home and paying exorbitant fees for export duty, they receive useless gold-coated metal disguised as gold. When they complain, the scammers feign innocence and even ask for more money to facilitate investigations. Our investigations show that rogue police officers are paid between Sh1 million and Sh5 million to arrest and deport the victims who insist on staying close to their gold. This is when crooked immigration officers are roped in.
One such officer, sources indicate, had just completed a Sh65 million house in Juja.The Kenya Chamber of Mines (KCM) expressed regret that a legitimate trade has been driven underground by unfavourable policies. KCM chief executive officer Moses Njeru explained that gold trade collapsed in 2013 after the government effected Legal Notice number 187, which hiked the royalties payable by miners and decreed that buyers must indicate the details of those selling the mineral.“When the government introduced the the two per cent royalty, the only licensed buyer, Ushidi Export, closed. Now, most of the gold produced in Kenya is being smuggled out of the country,” Mr Njeru added.
By Amos Kareithi