Thursday’s fatal shooting of a businessman in Ruiru town has sparked speculations that he could have been executed due to his involvement in illegal ivory trade.
Sources say Fredrick James Muchina was a leading player in the illegal ivory trade, noting that he has on several occasions been on the Kenya Wildlife Services (KWS) watch list.
Muchina was shot dead at close range by assailants who rode in a private car at Ruiru town as he drove to Nairobi, allegedly from Nyeri.
Although sources at Ruiru and Nairobi, where he operated various businesses claimed he could have been killed due to business rivalry, especially land dealings, villagers at his Kirinyaga turf said he was a well-known ivory dealer.
According to some reports, he was involved in poaching at Solio Ranch in Laikipia, Ol Jogi, and other national and game reserves. Two of his accomplices were reportedly arrested last year inside Aberdares National Park, but Muchina managed to escape.
He reportedly fled from the country and left his car at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and exiled himself to South Africa.
But after the matter cooled down, he silently sneaked back into the country and resumed attending to his chain of lucrative business until his tragic end on Thursday, just a stone throw away from his Ruiru town residence.
When contacted, a senior KWS official told The Standard on Sunday that the deceased was under watch by the institution over his involvement.
“He is the man. He has been running away but we suspect his gangs were still working,” said the senior officer.
The KWS official however said the killing was purely a police case.
“We do not know his killers and the reason behind his execution and we are confident that police are probing the matter,” he said.
As The Standard on Sunday moved to investigate the underhand dealings of the deceased, we came across a man — who sought to remain anonymous — and who claimed Muchina approached him in Nyeri town in 2010.
“He was told that I am an experienced driver and he personally approached me to recruit me. He told me he will be paying me Sh500,000 to transport tusks and rhino horns to Mombasa. Those recruited to kill rhinos and horns were to get Sh100,000 for every assignment,” he said.
Our source said he was told the assignment was dangerous and henceforth declined the offer.
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“He recruited 10 other youth in the area, but more than half of them have been shot dead and others executed due to their involvement in poaching and ivory trade,” he said.
He said among those killed are two men whose bodies were found a few months ago near Ndaragwa in the Aberdares Forest.
He said despite facing hard lives before their recruitment into poaching, the recruits’ financial fortunes changed immediately.
“They now own plots, parcels of land and big and expensive houses and some of them own vehicles. This made us believe that there is good money in poaching, despite the dangers it exposes one to,” he said.
Last year, our sister TV station KTN highlighted Muchina’s dealings in a documentary titled ‘Poachers and Butchers’, where he was said to be the king of the cartels.
In the documentary, Muchina was quoted as a wealthy and well connected gang leader who operates the black trade within the entire country and East Africa.
He also reportedly enjoyed 24-hour protection, with one of his bodyguards being a marksman.
He is said to have assistants in all regions where elephants and rhinos are reared.
On January last year, Muchina is alleged to have telephoned a police officer, George Nderitu who was by then attached to the Central Bank of Kenya, Nyeri branch. The following day, his bullet riddled body, alongside that of William Gichuhi Kariuki was found at Solio ranch in Laikipia County.
Although KWS and authorities claimed they were shot dead while poaching wildlife, pathologists and human rights organisations termed the two killings as execution.
The murder raised questions, with his family and former Government Pathologist Dr Moses Njue poking holes into police and KWS claims that the two were poachers.
Instead, Njue, who conducted the post mortem on Nderitu’s body, said the bullet wounds indicated he was shot from a close range, and some bullet wounds on his palms exhibited that he might have been trying to defend himself from his attackers.
Njue and Nderitu’s father Mr Naftaly Nderitu said there were also remnants of gun powder on the body, and indication they were shot from a close range, “and at a stationary target”.
Nderitu’s wife, Lucy Wangui told journalists soon after her husband’s mutilated body was discovered, that she had just delivered their first born and her husband sought a day off to attend to her.
“It was on Saturday, January 18, 2014 between 11.30 am and 12 noon and Nderitu received a call on his mobile phone while we were both in the bedroom.
He picked the call and I heard him say, “Uga Muchina” (Muchina, tell me) but I did not concentrate much on their conversation. He further asked to be given 30 minutes before he comes to Whispers Park in Nyeri town,” said Wangui.
The call was somehow brief and Wangui did not concentrate much on the conversation.
She said the husband then went to the bathroom and when he was done, received another call which she suspected was from the same person (Muchina).
He lied to the caller, saying he was on his way to Nyeri town.
“I heard him appear to repeat what the caller had said, ‘Kwa hivyo tukutane Whispers?” (So we meet at Whispers?” she said.
Nderitu did not return home. Two days later, he was discovered dead. The wife identified the body which was lying at the Nyeri Provincial General Hospital mortuary.
The news of Muchina’s shooting on Thursday evening sent shivers and shock waves in his home village, in Kerugoya, Sagana and Makutano where he operated filling stations.
Muchina who was in his early 50’s, was shot six times inside his Toyota Kruger at about 5.30pm while on his way to his residence, according to a relative.
He operated three petrol stations within Kirinyaga County.
A close family member said he received the sad news while he was in Mombasa.
“...upon receiving the chilling news, I felt so low and remained awake the whole night trying to figure out what might have caused the death of my uncle,” said the relative.
Sources at his Gitumbi village, which is a few kilometres from Kerugoya town said Muchina frequented China, which is a known destination of game trophies.
Police are investigating the incident.