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Businessman who landed Governor Hassan Joho inside police cells speaks out

By Benard Sanga | January 18th 2017
Supporters of Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho outside Police Headquarters in Mombasa County after reports that the governor and other leaders had been arrested last weekend.

Ibrahim Aharub Kharti, the businessman whose arrest made Mombasa Governor Ali Hassan Joho storm a police station, has blamed politics for his woes.

Mr Kharti's detention after a dramatic arrest at his Ganjoni home in Mombasa led to the brief detention of Governor Joho after the county chief, accompanied by three MPs, went to the police station demanding his release.

Speaking for the first time after being freed without charges, Kharti blamed his arrest on politics and Coast Regional Co-ordinator Nelson Marwa who, he claims, tried to link him to drug trafficking and illegal gun ownership.

Kharti is described as a wealthy and shrewd businessman and customs agent who mainly deals in importation of high-end motor vehicles from Germany and Britain.

He is also a long-time and close ally of Joho and his family, but insists that he has no interest in politics.

"I am not affiliated to any political side because I am just a businessman," he said.

He accused Mr Marwa - who has been at loggerheads with the governor for over a year - of orchestrating his arrest to get back at Joho.

Marwa, who has accused Kharti of alleged links to car syndicates, drug trafficking and illegal gun ownership, is now under pressure to prove the claims.

Yesterday, Marwa remained tight-lipped on a threat by Kharti's lawyer to sue for defamation.

On Saturday, Marwa accused the media of siding with Joho and Kharti in the incident, insisting that  the businessman, who was quietly freed on Friday, was still under investigation to determine how he was licensed to carry many weapons.

Kharti admitted through his lawyer that he is licensed to carry three guns.

The conduct of the investigation has sparked many questions regarding whether Marwa orchestrated the arrest or whether it was mishandled, embarrassing the national government in the process.

Yesterday, Julius Martin, who heads International Criminal Police Organisation (Interpol) in Kenya, was quoted by Radio Maisha denying claims that Kharti was on their radar.

On Monday, Inspector General of Police Joseph Boinnet said Kharti was under investigation over claims that he was involved in an international motor vehicle theft syndicate.

"We do not just arrest. It is not political as they are trying to show. There are complaints and serious ones, hence the probe," Boinnet was on Monday quoted as saying.

The Standard has established that by the time Boinnet was speaking, Kharti had been freed without any charge.

Kharti's lawyer, Mohamed Salim Balala, claimed in a statement issued in Mombasa yesterday that Marwa had invented claims against his client.

The lawyer said Marwa ought to have recorded a statement with the police instead of calling the press to link his client to drug trafficking and car theft.

On Friday, anti-terror and Flying Squad officers stormed Kharti's house in Ganjoni area. He was freed without charges after a stand-off between Joho and the police.

When he addressed journalists on Saturday, Marwa accused Joho of trying to shield a man he labelled as "a potential drug baron" wanted by Interpol over an international car theft racket.

"He came to the station and was let in, only to start demanding the release of the suspect. He harassed and abused officers who we commend for exercising restraint," said Marwa.

Yesterday, Kharti told The Standard that contrary to Marwa's assertion, he was freed on a police free bond without a charge.

"I did not even pay my bond. I was released on a P 22, what Marwa is claiming is only to ruin my name. I am surprised why he is doing this. I am not a politician," he said.

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