Behind veil of riches are tales of terror and fratricide

From Left Baktash Akasha, Gulam Hussein, Ibrahim Akasha and Vijaygiri Goswami. (Photo: Reuters)

For decades, the name Akasha has been synonymous with notoriety and impunity.

This is especially so in Mombasa, where the late patriarch Ibrahim Akasha Abdalla and some of his sons held sway until he was killed in a hail of bullets in the Netherlands in 2000.

Like all prominent families, the Akasha clan embodies a mix of the good and the bad. Naturally, family members proclaim innocence but, significantly, most of them have lived within the law, avoiding jail or being freed on appeal after conviction.

Last week, the late patriarch’s widow, Fatuma, lamented that the Akasha family has been a victim of hostile propaganda and vicious conspiracies by rival businessmen and families, and had never traded in even an ounce of narcotics

This followed the extradition of the late Akasha’s sons, Baktash and Ibrahim, which presents the most viable opportunity to test claims that this family, which has roots in the Middle East but migrated to Kenya over 60 years ago, has engaged in drug trafficking.

The polygamous Akasha clan has been divided by decades of internal feuds pitting the children of one widow against the children of another. These feuds led to violent clashes, perhaps death but also reconciliation.

For close to two decades, Baktash Akasha has been the public face of a family blamed for organised crime in Mombasa.

Fatuma Akasha (left) is consoled by Najma Akasha, wife of Baktash Akasha at their home in Nyali, Mombasa County. (Photo: Kelvin Karani/Standard)


But not all the Akasha children are associated with crime — some live quiet lives in Mombasa and abroad. Many who were associated with the internal feuds or faced court before have mended their ways or left to live abroad and resumed normal lives.

Following his father’s death in Amsterdam on May 3, 2000, Baktash emerged as the heir of a vast financial empire that runs across three continents.

Besides charisma and the proverbial nine lives, Baktash, 41, who speaks perfect English despite dropping out of primary school in Mombasa Academy, also appears to have inherited his father’s sense of wit, proclivity for crime, bravado and global networks.

It is said that it is these networks that have landed him in deep trouble with US authorities.

In recent years, Baktash, who first married as a teenager, had lured his younger brother, Ibrahim Abdalla Akasha, into his notorious ways.

Both controlled the empire that survived their father’s death and the violent family feuds that over wealth that followed.

Baktash and Ibrahim are sons of Fatuma, the late patriarch’s third wife.

Before his murder, there was order in the Akasha family, and Baktash and Kamaldin — his slain brother from an unidentified woman but raised by Karima (one of the late Akasha’s wives) — were close and acted as bodyguards for their father.

But hell broke loose after their father’s death, apparently over control of the spoils. Kamaldin was killed at the height of the squabbles, sparking a new wave of blame and violent clashes.

Baktash and his half-brother Hassan (son of Karima) publicly accused their other brother, Nurdin Akasha “Tinta”, for Kamaldin’s murder, which remains unsolved to date.

Baktash inherited most of his father’s wealth and took in Kamaldin’s children and the children of a deceased sister.

When journalists were allowed into Fatuma’s home last Thursday, following Baktash’s and Ibrahim’s extradition to the US, she tearfully said, “My family has been a victim of malicious rumours and plots”.

It was the first time ordinary mortals were being allowed into the palatial residences of the Akashas’ highly secured homes, which have historically embodied wealth and splendour but also terror for those who have crossed the paths of the more violent Akasha sons.

Reporters beheld more than 15 daughters and several sons, all gripped by fear and anxiety as Fatuma declared that “these sons of mine are the breadwinners of this family” to demonstrate the central role played by Baktash and Ibrahim.


The daughters in particular displayed beauty and humility, and a more human side of this controversial family.

The slain baron had three wives and also had a child with a fourth woman. Karima was the first wife. Her first born was Habab Noordin. Her other children were Hassan and twin daughters.

Kamaldin was born out of a relation between the late Akasha and an unnamed woman he divorced before marrying Karima.

The third wife was Hayat whose children are daughter Najma Bazuna, son Nurdin ‘Tinta’, Durzia, Feisal and Abdalla.

Fatuma was the fourth woman in the late Akasha’s life and is the mother of Baktash, Warda and Ibrahim.

Habab was jailed for 10 years by a Tanzanian court after he was found guilty of being in possession of Mandrax in 1997. He was later freed after the conviction was quashed.

The Standard on Sunday spoke exclusively to Habab, who lives a low profile life in Mombasa. He is regarded as the voice of reason and has mediated several family squabbles.

He declined to say much about his clan but disclosed that the family came to Kenya during colonial times when his grandfather, Abdalla Ibrahim, came from Sudan after years in Iraq.

He said his father, whose date of birth he did not disclose, established a transport firm and formed the Kenya National Transport Company before selling it to the Government after independence.

Tinta lives and operates mining and jewellery businesses in Sudan where Habab’s twin sisters are married.

The Akashas have vast interests in real estate in Mombasa and Nairobi besides owning properties in Zambia, South Africa, Mozambique and Sudan.

Following Akasha’s murder, his fractious family descended into property feuds and succession wars over billions in cash kept in banks in Kenya and abroad besides investments in gold and copper mines in Zambia and South Sudan.


There were also extensive investments in real estate and the transport sector in Kenya, Switzerland, Sudan and Lebanon.

Akashas’s involvement in narcotics has always been shrouded in controversy.

Although some reports suggest the senior Akasha introduced the narcotics trade to his arsenal of businesses in the 1970s and 1980s, the family has always denied any association and until now, none has been successfully prosecuted and convicted.

Significantly, many of Akasha sons and their wives were licensed to carry firearms, which they were accused of misusing.

Recently, it was revealed that police had always been aware that the late Akasha’s licensed gun was never recovered after his death and is still being used by one of his sons without licence.

Baktash’s own firearm was withdrawn after he was arrested following the sudden death of his wife at home.

Despite the change of fortunes, the Akasha family appeared to recover from the troubles that followed the partriarch’s death and the family was confident they were about to overcome their extradition to the US.

However, besides legitimate trade, there were suspicions that their drug trade had been revived and expanded with the arrival in Kenya of Vijaygiri Goswami in Mombasa on November 22, 2012.

In November 2014, Mr Goswami, with whom Baktash and Ibrahim have been shipped to the US, admitted he knew the family patriarch in the early 1980s, in Zambia and other nations of southern Africa.

Goswami, who entered Kenya on a business visa through Jomo Kenyatta International Airport after leaving a Dubai jail a week earlier, appearred to have been resuming an old friendship.