Police exonerate owner of yacht seized with Sh.22 million heroin in Kilifi

Luxurious yatch "baby Iris" up in flames in the Indian Ocean, Mombasa. [Maarufu Mohammed/Standard]
Police have failed to link the owner of a luxury yacht blown up in 2015 to the drugs it was said to be carrying.

The vessel, which was seized off the coast of Kilifi, was destroyed on the orders of President Uhuru Kenyatta after it was impounded with heroine worth more than Sh22 million on board.

On Monday, an officer told Mombasa Senior Magistrate Henry Nyakweba that there was no link between the narcotics found aboard the yacht and the owner of the vessel, Bilal Kimani.

The court heard that the Inspector General (IG) of Police Joseph Boinnet ordered the arrest of Mr Kimani for seeking the release of the vessel.

IG notified

The investigator, George Odhiambo, told the court that Kimani was not in the country when the crew of the yacht and its captain were arrested.

“Kimani had written to the IG notifying him that he was the owner of the yacht. (In the letter) he said that he was not aware of the circumstances behind the seizure of the yacht and wanted to know if it could be released,” said Mr Odhiambo.

Odhiambo told the court that Kimani was arrested after police assumed that he was privy to the narcotics aboard the yacht.

Kimani was charged with trafficking in narcotics worth Sh22 million, but denied the charges and was released on a bond of Sh10 million.

He denied any knowledge of the drugs found in the water tank of the yacht that was scheduled to sail to Madagascar with tourists and said he had left the vessel in the hands of his crew.

Kimani claimed he bought the yacht from Mike Connel, a British businessman, for 60,000 euros (Sh6.8 million).

Among those arrested in connection with the narcotics were the yacht's captain, Clement Serge Bristol a Seychelles national, and four Kenyans - Ahmed Said Bakari, Mohamed Bakari Mohamed, Sharifu Mzee Mohamed and Ahmed Hussein Salim

Odhiambo said Kimani was arrested at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport after he was handed over by Madagascar authorities on the IG's request.

The officer was being cross examined by Kimani’s lawyer, Jared Magolo.

He admitted that the IG had received a letter notifying him of the vessel's ownership but neither replied nor summoned Kimani for questioning.

Travel history

The court heard that the IG ordered the Immigration Department to provide a travel visa history of Kimani, which indicated that he had been back in the country twice after the impounding of the narcotics aboard his vessel.

Kimani's lawyer told the court that the yacht ought to have been a court exhibit, and accused the officers of disregarding court orders.

“Your honour there were two existing court orders directing the preservation of the vessel as a court exhibit,” said Mr Magolo.

The magistrate agreed.

Within the law

“You went ahead and destroyed the vessel before presenting it before the court and yet the owner had claimed it. Why didn’t you let the court decide that after the matter was determined? You should read the Constitution so that next time you are able to act within the law,” said Mr Nyakweba.

The yacht was blown up under the supervision of then Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaissery, Chief of Defence Forces Joseph Mwathethe, and Coast Regional Coordinator Nelson Marwa.

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luxury yachtBilal Kimani