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Inside the fraud charges that rocked Kassam’s flashy boat

By Wainaina Wambu | Jan 17th 2022 | 2 min read
By Wainaina Wambu | January 17th 2022

Alnoor Kassam. [Courtesy]

On September 26, 2001, the dramatic immigration inquiry of Alnoor Kassam began in Vancouver, Canada.

He had fled Kenya in a cloud of suspicion with claims that he had carted away billions and was being pursued by Interpol and Kenyan authorities.

The Canadian Immigration and Refugee Board would seven months later, in April 2002, make a decision cementing his citizenship status.

However, the investigations by the Canadians would reveal one of the most intriguing and corrupt business dealings in Kenya’s modern history and opened the lid on the sleazy 80s and 90s.

The charges on Kassam ranged from fraud and forgery.

The pre-export finance scheme was one of the dirtiest financial deals of the 90s. The intention had been to promote the export of goods and services from Kenya, but would see Kenya lose billions in corrupt deals struck in the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) through political banks and the powerful wheeler-dealers in the government and private sector.

Some other famous scams included Goldenberg and Anglo-leasing.

To qualify, an exporter had to apply for the scheme via a commercial bank, which would authenticate to CBK that exports had occurred.

Trade Bank depositors queue outside the bank, waiting for refunds, Nairobi, April 1994. [File, Standard]

Once CBK was satisfied, the commercial bank would be credited 85 per cent of the requested funds. “After a period of 80 to 180 days, CBK would assume that the export of the products had taken place. Then the commercial bank of the exporter would be debited and the money recovered by CBK,” reflected the Canadian agency.

Among the charges laid for Kassam was obtaining by false pretences and pretending that orders had been received for supply of frozen fillets of Nile Perch.

It was alleged that about $23 million Canadian dollars were involved in the transactions. For multiple charges, Kassam was co-accused with then Trade Bank managing director Ian Rayner, who had also fled Kenya.

“The minister alleges that Kassam, the major shareholder of Trade Bank in Kenya, was involved in the misuse of a pre-export financing scheme developed by CBK,” said the document.

The allegations were that Kassam “used or ordered” his firms accounts including Hasanati Ltd, Empire Holdings and Holding (Holiday) Resort Ltd) and others accounts held at Trade Bank seeking to obtain cash from CBK through the scheme.

“However, there were no exports. The money circulated between Trade Bank and CBK. This enabled Kassam to keep Trade Bank liquid and cover the debts in his accounts,” said the document. These allegations formed the basis of Kenya’s case against Kassam that he committed acts or omissions relating to “the essential elements of specific offences in Kenya.”

“This case is highly complex and controversial. The evidence presented is extensive,” it noted. 

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