Sh33b project by Saudi Arabia royals on hold over row as DPP drops fraud charges

Prince Sultan Bin Nasser Bin Abdulaziz Bin Saud
A multi-billion shilling food security investment by a member of the Saudi Arabia royal family at the Kenyan coast has stalled due to fraud claims and wrangles.

A decision by the Director of Public Prosecutions to drop criminal charges facing two individuals accused of attempting to defraud the Saudi prince in the Sh33 billion agro-firm project has added a new twist.

The DPP’s office had initially approved criminal charges against Nuh Mohamed Abdulwahab and Robinson Kigen but later directed the charges be suspended.

The two had been accused of forging the signature of Hassan Babakar Osman, who is a representative of Saudi's Prince Sultan Bin Nasser Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, to transfer the prince's shares to a third party in 2015.

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The Saudi royal registered Arafco Agricultural Integration Co in 2010. He owns 90 per cent shareholding of the 1,000 shares while his Kenyan partners own 10 per cent or 100 shares.  

The firm then leased 100,000 acres from the Agricultural Development Corporation for mixed use in Galana, Kilifi County. This was later transferred to Milstone Developers Ltd, where the two are majority shareholders, under disputed circumstances.

The matter is likely to spark a diplomatic row between Nairobi and Riyadh after the prince, through the Saudi Arabian embassy, petitioned President Uhuru Kenyatta to intervene.

On August 12, 2016, the DPP’s office directed the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) to institute three charges against Abdulwahab and Kigen - conspiracy to defraud, procuring execution of documents without authority and obtaining registration of a company membership by false pretence.

“Upon a careful perusal of the police file, we have established there is sufficient evidence to warrant prosecution against Nuh Abdulwahab Mohamed and Robinson Kigen,” Deputy DPP Nicholas Mutuku wrote to DCI then.

But on October 25, 2016, the DPP sent a second letter to the DCI asking for the charges to be put on hold after the suspects went to the High Court for a judicial review, while recalling the police file to facilitate responses to the High Court cases.

The DPP’s office, during the transition from Keriako Tobiko to Noordin Hajji, however resolved to drop the charges, terming the case a civil dispute.

Last month, Prince Sultan Bin Nasser Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud told Uhuru his investments in Kenya were in jeopardy if the dispute was not concluded speedily, while protesting alleged harassment of his representative.

He said he had established groundwork for an oil refinery in Kenya, other than the Galana food project where he intends to establish a sugar farm, fresh greens and dairy farm, and horticulture venture at a cost of $330 million (approximately Sh33 billion).

“When he (Osman) filed a civil case against them and recorded statements with police, they (suspects) turned to use politicians and anti-terror police unit (ATPU) to frustrate and possibly have him deported as terrorist so that they can remain with my investment,” the prince’s protest letter read in part.

On October 24, 2016, Osman was arrested on suspicion of being an ISIS/ISAIL financier and sympathiser but on July 17, 2017, the State withdrew the charges in consent entered before Principal Magistrate K Cheruiyot.

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