Akashas: We had top judges and the police in our pockets

Baktash Akasha and his brother Ibrahim Akasha (right) when they appeared before a Mombasa court for their extradition case shortly before they were extradited to the US in 2017. [Courtesy]
Government officials sustained the Akasha family drug empire through an elaborate bribery scheme and shielded them so much so that the US connived to airlift them away.

Materials adduced ahead of the sentencing of two Akasha brothers -- Baktash and Ibrahim -- show that they had successfully managed to stall their own extradition cases by first obtaining bail, repeated adjournments and generally slowing the wheel of justice.

In an indictment of the Kenyan judiciary, the US attorney prosecuting the case told the judges that senior State officials who were tired of the ping pong in the corridors of justice decided “they should be expelled to USA”.

Their lawyer claimed they were kidnapped from Kenya, but the US attorney said there were credible fears that witnesses could not be flown to testify in what was described as a largely corrupted proceeding.

Grave danger

“The extradition hearing presented extremely grave danger to all of the US witnesses who were requested in these proceedings to show up in Africa on the basis of what we believe was, again, an extensively corrupted proceeding in Kenya,” US prosecution told Justice Morrero.

New evidence adduced in the trial shows the Akasha’s had been running the show at the judiciary, the police service and government long before the extradition proceedings started.

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In one revealing instance, Ibrahim confesses that he used to steal tonnes of government’s chemicals in a Nairobi laboratory after bribing officials.

The chemicals would then aid in manufacturing methamphetamine or simply crystal meth, a brain damaging recreational drug which the family trafficked globally.

Ibrahim’s confession to a secret USA Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent code-named Rashid lifts the veil on the impunity the family enjoyed and showed they could not face justice in Kenya.

In a narration tabled before Judge Marrero, the younger Akasha chest-thumbed how, deep in the night, he would load up his van with ephedrine after bribing Kenyan officials.

“We used to go steal from the government lab. Ephedrine,” said Ibrahim while asserting that it was in Nairobi and not Mombasa.

In the conversation, the US official asked whether it was easy or hard and whether he had “people” in the lab.

“It was hard, but men, I used to do it. Yeah, I used to bribe everybody. You pay everybody and at night I go, and I own a van. I load it full. One thousand kilos,” replied Ibrahim.

Photographs displayed in court by US attorney Geoffrey S Berman reveals that the family lived large.

In one of them, Baktash is seen holding bundles of $100 notes and in another, he has a golden ring, the kind worn by Sultans and Emirs.

Big money deal

It also emerges from the documentation that Muhammad Asif Hafeez, the senior Akasha’s associate could soon be joining him in the US. He is currently in custody in London awaiting extradition.

Hafeez, an old timer in the drugs trade was the link between Kenya and the international market, including South Africa.

But his ties with the family were cut in 2000 when Ibrahim Abdalla Akasha was murdered in Amsterdam.

In 2014, Vijaygiri Goswami, who is also in jail with the Akashas, reached out to Hafeez, who he implored to assist in a big money drugs deal to the US. He did not know that it was to be their last as they had been netted right into their own game. Baktash, Ibrahim and Goswami met at a Chinese restaurant in Nairobi to discuss the transaction, and the tens of millions of dollars they expected in profit.

Violent extortion business

Goswami agreed to assist and several weeks later, Rashid travelled to Kenya for further negotiations.

On April 25, 2014 Baktash, Ibrahim, Goswami and others met Rashid at an apartment in Nairobi, where they discussed the details of this heroin importation scheme.

Hafeez ultimately agreed to assist in the US heroin transaction that supplied the 99 kilogrammes of heroin that was seized by the DEA.

Away from the drugs business which centred around violence to protect their territory, the court heard that the Akashas have also long been engaged in a violent extortion business.

If any business person needed to collect debts or intimidate their competitor, Ibrahim, Baktash and their ilk would be hired to do the battering works, which would add swell to their ill-gotten wealth.

In a video from Ibrahim’s phone, he narrates an assault of a man being beaten up by a built up man in a dim-pink vest. The victim is covered in slash marks and was repeatedly slapped while he was being questioned about some money. “As another example, in 2016, Ibrahim described for Goswami an incident in which he (Ibrahim) took a man by force to a bank in Mombasa, held the man at gunpoint, and forced the man to withdraw approximately Sh1 million that the Akashas claimed were owed to them.

Goswami observed Ibrahim take the man by force to the bank and return with the money,” the court was told.

Sunday Standard can reveal that DEA obtained 30 mobile phones from the brothers; some of which were seized in November 2014 when the two were initially arrested in Kenya while the additional ones were seized in January 2017 when they were extradited to the US.

It took 60 days to mine data from the mobile phone, some of which is now being used against the two. Some of the photographs and videos of the people they tortured were obtained from these phones.

From the mobile phones, US authorities obtained 50 GB of data. Baktash also had a personal masseuse who wrote a letter to the court pleading that he should get a lean sentence.

“We were born into wealth. By our name. The name is big. And so whoever comes, and wherever they come from, and say this name (Akasha) they know we are drug dealers,” one of the Akasha’s was recorded as saying.

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Akasha familyDrug cartelsBaktash AkashaIbrahim Akasha