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Doom for Akasha’s vast drug empire as kin jailed 23 years

COAST
By Kamau Muthoni | January 12th 2020
Baktash Akasha and his brother Ibrahim Akasha at the Mombasa Court. (File, Standard)

Convicted Ibrahim Akasha threw his brother drug kingpin Baktash Akasha under the bus to save his skin and sought sympathy in a remorseful letter to the judge.

But in the end, he will spend 23 years behind bars.

As Kenya was in slumber last night, at 1am, the court in the US sent the drug lord to jail, two years shy of his elder brother Baktash’s verdict. 

The sentence by US District Judge Victor Marrero against the 31-year-old-son of slain drug kingpin, Akasha, is a culmination of a swift and sting operation that dealt an immortal blow to the Akasha drugs empire. It took two hours for the judge to spell the punishment to Ibrahim. Stunned by the severe sentence, his lawyer Dawn Cardi termed the verdict outrageous.

The defence lawyer expected the court to slap him with 10 years, arguing that Ibrahim was Baktash’s assistant and courier boy.

Regrets

Ibrahim had earlier written his regret, hoping he would get away with a lean sentence. In the letter, he narrated to the judge how he was the lesser evil. He referred to his brother Baktash as his the apple of his father’s eye, the architect and the mastermind of the multi-billion shilling under world empire.

Ibrahim’s sentencing brought a near end to the long running saga, whose plot to evade justice was meticulously rolled out in Kenya and somewhat faltered along the way when the two wanted men were whisked away to the waiting US justice system.

It now remains to be seen whether the US Justice system will still hunt for the infamous but unnamed prosecutor and judges who aided the two Akashas to dodge extradition to the US.

At least three Kenyan judges worked around the clock to ensure they would not be extradited to the US for drug trafficking trial.

US Prosecutor Geofrey Berman told the court that the Akashas managed to first obtain bail, followed it with constant adjournments and then persuaded another judge to have US authorities appear in Kenya with the hope they would not comply.

The Akasha brothers first obtained bail from a magistrate’s court, which on December 1, 2014 ordered that they pay Sh5 million plus two Kenya sureties for their freedom as the court heard the extradition case.

The two cited their ill health while seeking to be released on bail. The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) immediately moved to the High Court for revision of the orders. A judge gave a limited stay of the bail orders pending the hearing of the case.

A second judge took over and seven days later, on December 8, 2014 agreed with the magistrate that the two deserved to be released on bail. This judge ordered that the DPP ought to have filed an appeal within seven days, failure to which the two would be released.

Aggrieved, the DPP went to a third judge. This time, the court enhanced their bail terms to Sh30 million each. They were also required to provide two sureties of a similar amount and report to investigating officers three days a week -- Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays -- at 10am.

According to Mr Berman, the Akasha brothers were able to persuade a magistrate in Kenya to issue an order directing the US personnel to appear in Kenya — after learning that US prosecutors and agents would not do so — understanding that the anticipated non-compliance would serve as a basis for additional and indefinite delay.

The brothers had asked the court to order all witnesses who were mentioned in the affidavit by the State be produced in court.

“They paid bribes to Kenyan law enforcement personnel, prosecutors, and at least three judges, and their scheme was successful for years. First, the defendant and his co-defendants were able to obtain bail, which allowed them to escalate their efforts to obstruct justice in the US,” argued Berman. Tired of the musical chairs played in Kenya’s corridors of justice, Kenyan authorities handed over the two to the US security agents three years ago.

Their trial was revealing. Court papers filed by the State’s prosecutor pulled off  the veil, roping in politician’s kin, businessmen and revealing a hallowing tale of torture, murders and collaboration with the Al Shabaab terror group.

It sucked in flamboyant politician Stanley Livondo, businessman Ali Punjani and a host of other names.

“In pursuing this plan, Baktash set up a meeting with the Ugandan President’s sister-in-law to discuss methods of illegally importing ephedrine into Uganda,” Berman’s filings in court read.

Lucrative business

For decades, they had distributed large quantities of mandrax, cocaine, hashish, heroin and other substances to locations all over the world.

They protected their lucrative drug business with violence, murder and related threats.

The document lays bare the bloody spats that ensued between the Akasha’s and rival drug cartels before their capture in 2017.

New details have merged on how the Akasha’s took on two drug rivals -- one led by a man only described as David Armstrong and the other by businessman Ali Punjani.

The document names Livondo as an Armstrong associate brave enough to confront Baktash at a shopping mall in Mombasa before Ibrahim intervened, drew his gun and threatened to kill him.

Later, Pinky -- Armstrong’s right hand man based in South Africa -- was pumped with 32 bullets at a party held at Baktash’s home to celebrate the feat. In the Punjani attack, the Akasha’s descended on two of his men, one named “Speedy” and the other Tony Sanghani and beat them almost to a pulp. “Ibrahim beat Sanghani with his fists and his gun. Sanghani suffered serious injuries, went into a coma, and was hospitalised for several weeks.”

In court documents, Baktash’s Mombasa home is described as “fortified base of operations.”

The end of their run came when in March 2014, Baktash and Ibrahim made a new multi-million dollar proposal to Goswami that included a US government agent code-named Rashid.

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