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Role of the Artur brothers and plan to bomb Standard offices

Artur Margaryan and Artur Sargsyan. [File, Standard]

After the State House meeting chaired by President Kibaki, the police chief retreated to his executive office and activated Kanga Squad for the deadly mission to raid KTN newsrooms and The Standard newspaper printing press at Nairobi’s Industrial Area. 

It was then decided to bring on board the two shadowy Armenian blood brothers – Artur Margaryan and Artur Sargsyan – who had secretly come to Kenya as shadowy businessmen sometimes in December 2005. 

Through their Kenyan hosts, whom I won’t name for legal reasons, the pair quickly established close links with political leaders. The foreigners were in turn introduced to the police chief who attended the State House meeting and planned the raid on Standard Group. 

The two, who Interpol describes as international fugitives on the run, had landed at Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport like other ordinary and harmless visitors. 

On the surface, they arrived as potential investors. But on the contrary, they were in Kenya on a deadly mission. 

The flamboyant gold-bedecked duo quickly settled down and mysteriously managed to hoodwink everyone – the CID and media included – that their bank accounts and pockets were well-oiled and were coming to inject the much needed dollar into Kenya’s economy. 

That helped them to keep it a well-guarded top secret they were international criminals. And that’s how they managed to worm themselves into the heart of Kenya’s security system and got “appointed” to the ranks of Deputy Commissioners of Police, a coveted title a heartbeat away from that of the Commissioner of Police. 

The rank of Commissioner of Police was abolished by the 2010 Constitution and replaced by the enhanced Inspector General of Police. 

Margaryan and Sargsyan held a series of meetings with top detectives at the CID headquarters as they rehearsed the plan to raid the media house. 

State agents raided The Standard Group in March 2006 and set the day’s newspapers that were rolling off the press on fire. [File, Standard]

As they schemed their evil mission, the Artur brothers were hurriedly issued with Kenyan passports and work permits – illegally – at the behest of powerful political forces operating at an arms-length from President Mwai Kibaki. 

And that’s not all. Margaryan and Sargsyan quickly metamorphosed from prospective investors into highly-ranked government officials – due to their ranks as Deputy Commissioners of Police. They were issued with security passes that gave them unlimited access to VIP zones at JKIA, to the extent of holding an international press conference there. 

After winning the trust of top operatives close to President Kibaki, the foreigners would begin engaging in suspicious activities, setting the stage for their dramatic stay in Kenya. 

Under police protection, the duo lived flashy lifestyles, the swanky Nairobi’s Runda estate being their home. 

Undeterred and unruly, while operating as law unto themselves on foreign soil, Margaryan even had the courage of daring no-nonsense Commissioner of Police, Maj Gen Hussein Ali, to arrest them while pleading their innocence on their stay in Kenya. 

This was after Opposition leader Raila Odinga blew the lid on the Artur brothers’ presence in Kenya, terming them assassins for hire. 

As a camouflage of their illegal activities, the aliens told the media they had interests in Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka and the Democratic Republic of Congo. They claimed they had invested $5 million in Kenya, in housing and metal industries, with the approval of President Kibaki. 

Behind the scenes, the international criminals pitched camp at CID headquarters at the Mazingira Complex, Kiambu Road, working with detectives attached to the elite Kanga Squad on the deadly plot to simultaneous raid KTN newsroom and Standard newspapers printing press at Nairobi’s Industrial Area. 

Under the guise of helping the CID to set up a secret police unit to deal with drug trafficking, the two dubious businessmen were mysteriously and clandestinely given the rank of deputy commissioner of police, armed with guns from the Kenya Police armoury. 

The Standard raid assignment suddenly came when they were allegedly setting up the alleged anti-drug trafficking squad and they were brought on board. 

They took up new roles in the planning and executing the Standard raid by offering technical support to the Kanga Squad. 

On the day of the raid, the Arturs coordinated the whole operation on the ground. It was them who came up with the idea of wearing hoods to cover the officers’ faces to ensure anonymity. 

All Kanga Squad officers who took part in the raid were ordered to surrender their cell phones on the day of the raid. 

The original plot was to bomb the entire I&M Building. But the hooded officers developed cold feet and opted for the “softer” op­tion of the raiding on the premises, dismantling computers, switching off KTN and burning newspapers rolling off the newspaper’s printing press in the Industrial Area. 

It turned out the freshly-printed newspapers didn’t carry any of the alleged stories or anything offending to the presidency or the government. 

The lead story in The Standard that day was about the top Kenya Certificate of Secondary School (KCSE) candidates. 

Workers assess damage following the raid at The Standard on March 2, 2006. [File, Standard]

Nevertheless, the squad seized printing equipment, computers and a newspaper delivery van which have never been returned to date. The seized van and material were taken to CID headquarters, a clear confirmation of who carried out the raid. 

In his usual characteristic style on grave issues of national importance, President Kibaki presided over a function at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC), in Nairobi, and was whisked away under tight security without mentioning the burning issue Kenyans had woken up to that morning. For him it was business as usual. 

Internal Security Minister John Michuki, however, was not so lucky. A battery of furious journalists cornered him outside KICC, despite the reinforced cordon of bully and armed bodyguards, as he was walking to his limousine and demanded to know who ordered the Standard raid and why. 

In his defence of the newspaper raid and giving the first official confirmation of State involvement, the combative Michuki uttered the infamous quote, “If you rattle a snake, be prepared to be bitten by it!” 

“What happened there was a government opera­tion over national security,” he declared, standing beside the open door of his limousine waiting to be chauffeured away.  

There was no need to seek further evidence from an authority higher than Michuki regarding who ordered the raid.  The raid sparked off a loud condemnation locally and globally, with journalists and civil society staging street protests. President Kibaki’s inner circle remained unmoved. 

When Major General Ali flew back to Kenya from Seychelles on March 5, 2006, three days after the bizarre raid, he found a battery of journalists waiting for him at JKIA. 

Appearing dejected and angry, the commissioner confirmed the information I had published in Daily Nation - he was kept in the dark when the police he was in charge of carried out the raid. 

Proud and arrogant, a furious Major General Ali did not take the insubordination lying down. He took his fight with CID chief Kamau to State House the next day, demanding that President Kibaki sack him. 

The President did nothing and allowed Kamau to serve his full term until his retirement on November 14, 2006. 

Unknown to Major General Ali then, The Standard raid was planned at State House and had the backing of President Kibaki and the big shots close to him. Allowing him access to the President, those calling the shots were only soothing the ego of the soldier. 

After meeting President Kibaki, the commissioner summoned Kamau to his office and demanded that he resigns. The CID chief defied the orders and a major rift between the two begun.  Major General Ali’s handlers tipped me off when he took his battles to State House or on the secret schemes in his office or boardroom. 

I unleashed exclusive stories that greatly rattled the man. He thought I had been spying on him since I got wind of every move he made. In return, the police chief stepped up his campaign to drive me out of NMG. 

I was close to Major General Ali and CID Chief Kamau and their fighting and bad blood put me in an awkward situation trying to balance professionalism and friendship. 

On March 7, 2006, I wrote a special report in the Daily Nation titled Police chief caught in the crossfire revealing the dilemma that faced Major General Ali and the power intrigues in the Kenya Police as politicians set up parallel lines of authority to undermine and sideline their boss. 

I wrote the woes facing the soldier could be equated to the intrigues which faced every police commissioner who served during President Moi’s tenure. 

Damaged printing press. [File, Standard]

All the commissioners who served under Moi were not from his tribe but were perceived as mere figureheads. 

Throughout, power was in the hands of their immediate subordinates – the CID, General Service Unit (GSU) and National Intelligence Service heads, who hailed from Moi’s tribe. 

I revisited an exclusive interview Major General Ali had granted me in April 2005, to mark his first anniversary in office. 

One question that stood out during the interview published by Daily Nation was how he would deal with powerful elements within the Kenya Police who tried to undermine him like Moi’s commissioners. 

His curt response was: “That can’t happen while I’m here! There cannot be any so-called parallel leadership. Anybody under the Police Act is answerable to me. If anything happens in the CID, I’m answerable.” 

Being from the military, Major General Ali had been assured by those who appointed him he would enjoy his full independence to run the Kenya Police and he believed it. 

The Standard raid awoke him to the painful reality faced by his predecessors and showed him where the real power rested. 

Unknown to Major General Ali at the time, top officials he was lodging his protests were the same ones who sat in the State House meeting plotting the raid. 

The Arturs stayed put in Kenya and Kamau went about his official business as if nothing had happened. 

As if to rub salt into a painful wound, the two brothers would show up in the city centre or stage lavish parties at their posh residence in Nairobi’s up-market Runda estate, inviting the media to cover or dine with them. 

For about three months, the so-called Artur brothers had free and unlimited access into CID headquarters and police stations within Nairobi from where they plucked off number plates from vehicles parked in the yards with which to disguise their evil missions. 

Margaryan even visited the secure high-security installation at the General Service Unit (GSU) headquarters where 1.2 metric tons of cocaine haul worth Sh6.4 billion was secretly stored after seizure in Kenya in December 2004. 

Although the government claimed to have burnt the drugs, critics claimed what was burnt wasn’t the seized cocaine. It appeared the Arturs were in Kenya as drug traffickers. The businessman tag was a camouflage. 

As I have indicated The Standard raid sparked off a bitter feud between Major General Ali and Kamau. I was caught up in the supremacy-raging battles due to my close relationship to both men.  

The police department was also torn between Major General Ali and Kamau. This affected the performance of the police, leading to a rise in crime. 

Stephen Muiruri is a former Editor (Crime and Security) at the Nation Media Group and former Editorial consultant of The DCI magazine

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