On Saturday, April 27, in the United Arab Emirates, President Uhuru Kenyatta reportedly met with the Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) who is the emir (ruler) of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.
The Emir is said to have raised concerns about problems he was having with his gold consignment that was to be airlifted through Nairobi.
The Emir is reported to have produced an audio recording that was replayed to the President purportedly in a conversation between the Royal family’s representative and a Kenyan contact.
The recording is believed to be the same one that was leaked online at the weekend, and which prompted a statement from the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Noordin Haji directing the police to investigate the audio clip titled “Wetang’ula exposed in fake gold scam,” apparently referring to Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang’ula.
Officials aware of the meeting in Dubai say also present was Opposition leader Raila Odinga, who is also the African Union’s High Representative for Infrastructural Development. The leaders were returning from a summit in China.
Raila and Uhuru had stopped over in Dubai for a weekend-long meeting on their way from Beijing, where they had attended the Belt and Roads Forum, a signature project for Chinese President Xi Jinping to connect Africa, Asia and Europe, officials said.
Taken in circles
During the meeting, the Dubai ruler is said to have shared with Uhuru the audio that captured a conversation between his nephew Ali Zandi and the Kenyan contact, and also explained how they had been taken in circles in Nairobi over the gold consignment that was to be trucked from DRC Congo and flown out via Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.
The Sheikh had been told by their Kenyan contacts the gold consignment had been seized at JKIA, but authorities say the Dubai ruler was conned as there was no such cargo.
It would appear Sheikh Maktoum had decided to raise the matter personally with Uhuru because it had been three months since he had lodged a protest with Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i over the gold consignment allegedly seized at JKIA.
In the January 20 letter, the Sheikh had requested immediate action regarding the shipment of gold under “our company’s name Zlivia, which is being retained by your authorities in Kenya.”
The Sheikh had acknowledged that he understood the delay “was caused by the last terrorist attack in your country” apparently referring to the dusitD2 terror attack on January 15.
“Nevertheless, now we need your immediate and strong action to release the totality of Zlivia Gold shipment to UAE as soon as possible and according to the instructions by our General Manager Mr Zandi, who is there in Kenya to organise the shipment.”
“It is quite urgent to solve this issue the earliest,” the letter by the Dubai ruler had read.
Zandi flew to Nairobi on the eve of Christmas Day, last year – and was still in Kenya by the time the Sheikh wrote to Dr Matiang’i – to try to trace the gold haul from Ndande Tribe in DRC Congo since it had been three months since the deal was sealed with the Kenyan contacts.
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The scheme started on September 25, last year, when the group approached Zandi, who represents Zlivia Company, a gold trading company based in Dubai. They had said they would deliver 4.6 tonnes of gold.
Zandi had been in Kenya for almost a month and left sometime in February, without the precious cargo. Having reached a dead end, it would appear the Sheikh saw an opportunity in Uhuru’s stopover in Dubai to seek his intervention.
On returning back to the country, Uhuru reportedly summoned his security bosses and played the audio to them.
Among those present in the meeting were Matiang’i, National Intelligence Service boss Maj Gen Philip Kameru, Inspector General of Police Hillary Mutyambai and Interior Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho.
Uhuru expressed concerns over the con games in the country for which JKIA is used as the operational base. The Head of State then demanded immediate action.
That order apparently has triggered the police operation that has seen arrests of more than a dozen people and discovery of fake gold in Kileleshwa, Nairobi.
The operation has also seen the arrest of businessman Jared Otieno, who was detained over claims he swindled a man from Laos Sh300 million on the pretence he would supply him with gold.
The police say the operation against those behind several fake gold deals in the country is ongoing and more suspects are set to be arrested.
Other officials said the saga was first brought to the attention of the president in early April by Raila. This was after Raila flew to Dubai and met Sheikh Marktoum, who reportedly asked for his intervention to have the said gold weighing 4.6 tonnes released from JKIA.
During the meeting at a hotel in Dubai, a Kenyan who has been mentioned in the saga was introduced to Raila as the one who was supposed to supply the said gold from DRC, but the commodity was detained at JKIA.
The Kenyan man was embarrassed when he called a man purporting to be Matiang’i on the phone only for Raila to declare the person on the other end was not the CS.
“He put the phone on a loudspeaker and when Raila heard the voice of the other party, he intervened and declared it was not the CS. This ended the conversation,” said an official aware of the issue.
It was at that point that Raila is said to have told the Dubai ruler they had been swindled and promised to raise the matter with the Kenyan officials. Raila is said to have flown back to Kenya and met the President and other security officials, and informed them of the saga.
Mr Haji has since given police seven days to investigate the leaked audio recording and give him a file for action.
The DPP said he had personally received a complaint from victims of the scam claiming that the personality had been dealing with them for some time and invoking the President’s name in their dealings.
Preliminary investigation has revealed that the scheme started on September 25, last year, when the group approached Zandi.
The group reportedly used known gold dealers, including a Russian national, to state that there was a huge amount of gold in DRC ready for movement to Dubai.
On September 27, the Kenyans said the gold had been detained by customs officials at JKIA.
According to the police, this prompted Zandi to call a Kenyan senator for help.
On December 15, last year, the senator flew to Dubai on the invitation of Zandi, for a meeting, during which he assured them he would help secure the release of the gold.
However, Zandi declined the demands for cash to facilitate the release and instead flew to Kenya on December 24.
His efforts to meet senior Kenyan Government officials were unsuccessful. Instead, the Kenyan contacts took him to JKIA, where he was shown sealed boxes purportedly containing the gold.
Apparently, the extortion ring includes some Government officials who facilitate the movement of their victims to the secure section at JKIA, where they have leased space for their fraudulent businesses.
On January 21, Zandi, who was still in the country, was moved to another hotel to meet a “senior Government official”, who would facilitate the release of the precious cargo.
Those behind the scheme organised imposters, one masquerading as a powerful Cabinet secretary, who they drove at night in two four-wheel drive cars to the hotel in Karen.
Zandi is said to have met the Government official in his car. The official apparently assured that the gold would be released. He flew back to Dubai after a month. But the said gold never got to Dubai.
Police say no such gold was held at the airport.
Frustrated, Sheikh Maktoum wrote to Kenya to complain about the scam and demanded action on those behind it.
The “seizure” was supposedly the first tranche of a 23-tonne gold consignment that was to be brought from the DRC.
Police investigations show the senator flew to Dubai to convince the royal family he would use his connections to have the said gold released.