On July 30, 2018, at 11:14 am, a middle-aged man stood In the dock before chief magistrate Francis Andayi at the Milimani Law Courts.
The accused wore a crisp dark designer suit, sharply contrasted by a white shirt. A heavy gold watch gleamed from his left hand. His face was composed and not moved by the prosecution’s attempt to have the court deny him bail.
Roy Shirekuli was one of the five people accused of defrauding a Brazilian national of Sh23 million in a fake gold deal. He denied the charges.
Police said Shirekuli conspired with four others; Philip Aroko, lawyer Munzala Rumili, Sikanda Abdala Saleh, and Ugandan national Kayombya Gorman alias Timothy Mureithi, to defraud Brazillian Samir Entorno at their company Avaals Metals offices between May 15 and June 9, 2018.
In a sworn affidavit, DCI detective Gerald Kamwaro stated that Aroko and Ismael were habitual offenders who had several active cases in Kibera Law Courts and Milimani Law Courts respectively. They were each released on Sh500,000 cash bail which they paid on the spot.
In an investigation that has taken months, The Nairobian looks into ‘the game of gold’, and some of those police accuse of being active participants. According to police, it’s the biggest fraud, where anything below Sh100 million is left for lowlifes.
The Nairobian sought Steve Mbogo, the man who unsuccessfully sought the Starehe Constituency seat on an ODM ticket in 2018. Mbogo’s name keeps popping up whenever gold is mentioned and is known to portray himself as a successful businessman with interests in aviation.
I met him at a city hotel for this interview.
“I am a legit businessman. You can visit my office and my accountant will show how I make my money,” he told me when I asked about how he made his money.
Mbogo has a few alleged fraud cases pending in court, the latest being January 23, when he was charged before Milimani senior principal magistrate Peter Ooko of defrauding Sayeed Mohammed Altaf of Sh100 million.
The office he speaks of, which I visited, is a double room affair in Westlands. He prefers to meet people in the restaurant in the same office block.
On March 3, 2011, then Congolese President Joseph Kabila came to Nairobi and held a one-hour closed-door meeting with President Mwai Kibaki. This was a trip he had to make in person because Sh8 billion was at stake.
Kabila’s mission was to recover 400 kilos of gold he claimed was stolen from him by Kenyan businessman Paul Kobia, accusations the latter vehemently denied.
The Congolese president had presented a 392-page report, drafted by United Nations investigators, fingering Kobia as the mastermind of the gold heist.
Kibaki ordered police and the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) to constitute a team to probe the matter. The team led by Joseph Cheptarus, then KRA’s Assistant Commissioner for Investigations and Enforcement, raided Kobia’s warehouse at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) but found no gold.
Less than 24 hours after the raid, Cheptarus was accosted by four gunmen outside his South C home at around 1 am and shot dead in February 2011.
That was after the killers had taken the guards hostage and for three hours, ushered in motorists into the estate, pretending to be the watchmen while waiting for Cheptarus. He was shot four times at close range.
Official records from Ministry of Mining released a report which disputed Kabila’s claims that his gold had been stolen by Kobia and exported through Kenya.
This year, on January 18, I met Kobia for the second time. The first time I met him was on August 14, 2013, also for an interview.
I sat in the well-manicured backyard of his seven-bedroom Riverside Drive office, sandwiched between two palatial homes housing diplomatic missions. He surprisingly remembered me and dismissed my question whether he stole Kabila’s gold.
He is dressed in a pinstriped, blue suit and his tie is perfectly knotted below his neck, even though it is 10:15 in the night.
“I didn’t steal Kabila’s gold. I got the gold from that man’s gold mine,” he said, pointing at a frail old man wearing a Muslim cap. The old man joined our table and introduced himself as Ettiene from Congo. He harbours, presidential ambitions, he told me.
Something unusual then happened. One of his guys informed him that a group of white investors he had been expecting were at the gate.
He talked into a walkie talkie and barked: “Command centre, hello! Bring the guests here, na wawache simu na takataka yote huko nje. Over!” A cackled reply then came through, “Received, over and out.”
Seconds later, the guests trooped to the backyard. Their phones had been confiscated at the gate.
As they held their meeting, and I sat on a verandah watching them and within earshot. At one point, Kobia stood up and answered his phone. ‘The President,’ he said as he pointed to the phone. His guests leave the table to give him some privacy. The phone call lasted less than a minute, during which time he punctuated his response with, ‘Yes Your Excellency, I will do so, Your Excellency, Consider it done Your Excellency”.
He came back to the table and meeting continued for a while. “Take my guests back to their hotel,” he instructs one of his aides.