Revealed: Top State officers in dirty, fake money racket

In a complex web of deception, a group of local and international crooks have created a thriving enterprise in Nairobi, which is minting billions by luring gullible investors who want to cut corners to multiply their riches.

The racket, our investigations show, is made up of crooked police officers, fast-talking wheeler-dealers, immigration officers, bankers, high-end hotels and judicial officers, who share the billions scammed from victims drawn from as far as America.

So intricate is the web that an estimated 20 MPs are raking in millions of shillings from counterfeit money and  gold, some of which have been stashed in secure safe boxes rented out from conniving bankers.

Yesterday, a private investigator, Steve Odero, told us how an employee of a parastatal was holding onto a consignment of fake notes he had been made to believe was worth $2 billion.

“The man has been stuck with the consignment in a house for the last eight months. He has been conned by an MP from Rift Valley who is always coming back for more money to “erase a UN stamp on the dollar notes.”

He has so far spent about Sh46 million in paying for ‘special chemicals’ which he rendered impotent by failing to follow some ridiculous conditions,” says Odero.

In some instances, the ‘investors’ are told to ensure they do not shake while carrying the containers, and to be careful not to expose them to daylight.

When the chemicals prove to be ineffective while they are mixed, the victims are blamed for breaching the rules and told to cough up more money to get fresh supplies.

At one point, the parastatal boss was told that a technician who was coming to “wash” his consignment had just arrived from the US, but had a sudden epileptic fit and dropped the containers with the chemicals.

The racketeers then used an ambulance to ‘rush’ the technician to hospital. After recovery, the technician had to be given more money so that he could bring fresh chemicals as the supply he had dropped was now useless.

Defrauding a foreigner

On January 17 this year, two men and one woman were arrested for allegedly defrauding a foreigner, Christophe Francois Berillion, of $192,500 (Sh19.25 million) by pretending to sell him gold.

Although the three suspects were charged with committing the offence on diverse dates between December 16,  2018 and January 10, 2019, the complainant was thereafter deported for flouting tourist visa rules, which does not allow visitors to engage in  business. The case has since grown cold.

Last August, a South American businessman flew into Nairobi in pursuit of gold he had been promised by the racketeers. Investigations show that the suspects had bought a number of gold-plated tri-circle padlocks, which were crashed and then stashed in a safe box which was put in a bank for safe custody.

When he realised that he had been conned out of Sh86 million, he reported the matter at a city police station and three suspects were arrested. However, the Brazilian was deported by Immigration officials who accused him of abusing his tourist visa as he was not supposed to work or trade in Kenya.

The racketeers at times send scouts to popular tourist destinations like Dubai, where they check into presidential suites in five-star hotels and pretended to be mingling with the rich and famous.

After creating such an impression, the planners then open as many as 50 Facebook accounts using all manner of disguises - ranging from love-crazed ladies from Europe, Asia or America.

When circumstances demand, they also pretend to be super-rich businessmen who can assist one make instant millions of shillings in Nairobi.

“After seducing their victims, they send consignments and even have clearing agents call you to inform you a gift has arrived. This is where the game begins, for after being shown the consignment, the prey is informed that they need to pay the insurance,” Mr Odero says.

Once the insurance is paid, the real extortion starts, as a fake United Nations ‘technician’ is sent to inspect the consignment and sample whether the currency notes are intact.

In the course of sampling, the technician will douse a small bunch of notes with chemicals “to remove UN rubber stamps on the notes,” and later offer the dollars to the unsuspecting beneficiary of the ‘windfall.’

Unknown to the prey, the fake technician will go to a bank and purchase genuine dollar notes and then pretend that they came from the consignment.

Having convinced the victim, the fraudsters then say they need SSD chemical gas so that they can erase the stamp.

According to www.quora.com, an SSD solution chemical is a special type of homogeneous mixture composed of two or more substances, which is mostly used for an extraction process.

According to the website, the price for a litre of US standard “A” grade SSD solution chemical is approximately $15,000 (Sh1.5 million) and can clean up to 4,000 pieces of $100 notes or $400,000 (Sh40 million).

In Kenya’s black market, the racketeers tell their victims that a cylinder of SSD chemical costs about Sh2.5 million.

Once the victim produces the amount, the cons will just go to a store and buy a three-kilo fire extinguisher cylinder, which ordinarily costs Sh3,000.

Fake chemical

Investigations show that once they buy the fire extinguisher, they then erase its inscriptions and paste stickers to present them as SSD solution chemical. For effect, there is even a picture of a machine cleaning money on the sticker and instructions on how this valuable substance is supposed to be applied.

So, to clean a consignment of $600 million (Sh60 billion), the racketeers tell their victim to purchase 10 cylinders of the disguised fire extinguisher at a cost of Sh25 million. “The moment you pay, they deliver the gas, which they purport has been obtained from the UN and then summon experts from the US or South Africa to come and clean the money,” says Odero.

We have established that there are printers in Luthuli, Khoja and Kirinyaga roads, whose specialty is bulk printing of counterfeit currency.

Sources privy to the ongoing investigations say the cartel uses rented houses to print the money. The houses are equipped with the printers, and have supplies of vitamin C, iodine liquid, paper cutting machines and rims of white papers.

“They get international investors in the name of starting a project in areas such as Turkana. The moment an investor lands on a tourist visa, they are invited for a meeting at a bank, where one of the cons has an account and safe deposit box,” revealed a source.

In the privacy of the bank’s secluded safety deposit box rooms, the investor feels secure after the “business partner” gets a box from the safe containing money and gold allegedly paid by some of the investors in the deal. Some of the deals are done in five-star hotels.

The investor is told how his money will multiply within a short period of time and given samples to go and change in a forex bureau of his choice or within the bank, after making a small payment.

Our sources say the scammers charge Sh60,000 to make counterfeits of Sh20 million, while printing fake $100 million attracts a fee of between Sh500,000 and Sh1 million. This is the money the racketeers have to invest before they approach gullible “investors” to con.

Meanwhile, the scammers who deal in gold target clients mostly outside Kenya, who are fleeced millions in the form of insurance and bank charges, and are then directed to deposit millions into accounts which are mostly in Turkey.

Cheap Chinese padlocks

The international clients are fleeced as much as Sh50 million for documentation and other related charges for consignments they are told is worth $150 million, which later turn out to be gold-coated, cheap Chinese padlocks  that have been crashed.

While the big boys are dealing at the international and national arena, minting millions for two chief inspectors of police who are the godfathers of counterfeit syndicate, the small-timers have migrated from their base in downtown Nairobi to residential estates.

A few weeks ago, a woman lost Sh15 million after she was lured into the trade by con men who baited her with Sh1 million they had allegedly washed for her.

The woman who declined to be named, says she had to sell her lorry and take a bank loan to raise the Sh15 million demanded by the cons.

At Ngara estate in Nairobi, there is an unwritten rule among shopkeepers at Ministry of Housing estate to never accept big denomination notes from customers from the neighbourinmg Railway quarters, which is infamous counterfeit money.

In Buruburu, all matatus have special flourescent lights which are meant to detect fake currency by crew who say they have in the past lost a lot of money.

The counterfeiters - Kenyans who team up with West Africans, especially Nigerians - have pitched camp in Parklands, Kilimani, Lavington and Eastleigh.

Some of the money printed by the cartels is smuggled to refugee camps, South Sudan and Somalia, where people trade in US dollars. Police say some of the counterfeit currency is used to finance criminal activities, such as money laundering businesses and terrorism.

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