Italian billionaire fugitives ''vanish'' from Mombasa police cells

Suspect Mario Mele at the Police Headquarters in Mombasa County on Friday 31st March 2017. He is among the drug suspects arrested. The suspects were arrested at different areas. Photo/Kelvin Karani

Lawyers of detained Italian businessmen Mario Mele and Leone Alberto Fulvio have expressed fears they may have been smuggled out of Kenya.

Yesterday, their lawyers reported that the duo had been moved from their cells and taken to unknown places.

John Khaminwa for Mario said his client had been missing from Nyali Police Station since Sunday.

Nyali deputy OCPD Walter Abondo declined to comment on the matter when The Standard requested his response to Khaminwa’s claim.

And Gikandi Ngibuini for Leone told Justice Dorcas Chepkwony yesterday that his client was taken away from Port Police Station where he was detained last Friday.

The lawyers now fear State officials might have flouted court orders restraining their transfer to Italy where they are wanted.

 “There is an order by Justice Chepkwony barring the removal of the applicant from Mombasa to any other place. I demand assurances that my client is safe and within Kenyan territory,” said Gikandi.

“If he is already in Italy they should state so. My intelligence tells me the respondents (the State) are trying to organise to declare him persona non grata and have him deported. I want the court to order the DPP to undertake proper procedure in his extradition considering he is a Kenyan citizen.”

The judge directed the DPP to confirm Leone’s whereabouts later yesterday.

In Malindi, Justice Said Chitembwe, who restrained the State from transferring Mario, ordered the Government to produce him in court today.

Khaminwa filed an application for his production yesterday after he ‘vanished’ from his cell on Saturday.

Mr Fulvio is a Kenyan and former Italian wanted by Interpol since 1997 and has lived in Kenya since 1993. He has been cleared many times as a man of good conduct and tax-compliant despite evading a drug conviction in Italy in 1992.

He became a Kenyan citizen in 2009 after renouncing his Italian citizenship. In 1997, the Interpol circulated an international warrant for his arrest based on a 1992 conviction in Italy. He apparently fled to Kenya the next year.

Kwale and Kilifi police are under pressure to explain the fugitives’ presence amid claims they enjoyed the protection and patronage of key people within the security system which could explain why police were not aware of or involved in the Wednesday operations leading to the detentions.

Mario, 56, who has lived in Kenya since 2012, was arrested by police from his Patapata Club in Malindi last Wednesday night and transported to Mombasa and detained at Nyali Police Station. Mario was detained alongside 70-year-old Stefano Poli, who has been living in Diani, Kwale and Malindi.