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Artur brothers' gun drama and police bosses' shame

 Artur Margaryan and Artur Sargasyan. [File, Standard]

Maj Gen Ali made several trips to State House demand­ing Kamau’s sacking, but the CID chief stayed put. 

However, the worst was to come for Kamau. The Standard Group raid gave birth to a bigger embarrassing scandal for the Kibaki administration when the Arturs drew guns at JKIA, triggering an international security scare and fury, on the evening of June 8, 2006. 

The gold-bedecked Armenian drew pistols in an attempt to free a female guest who had just flown into Kenya and who had refused requests by customs officers to open her luggage for inspection. 

The Arturs and their backers in government had stretched their luck too far. And somebody had to give way. 

Diplomats, led by American and British envoys, piled pressure on the government and threatened to have JKIA blacklisted by major international airlines. 

This would have crippled Kenya’s fragile tourism industry and scared away current and prospective foreign investors. The JKIA security breach caused a huge storm in Kenya, shaking the foundations of President Kibaki’s presidency and thrusting Kenya into the international arena for the wrong reasons. 

The Armenians had returned to dominate the media airwaves and prime newspaper pages with their juicy but horrific drama. And the bad publicity wasn’t good for the Kibaki administration. 

Trying to placate the powerful foreign nations, Internal Security Minister John Michuki ordered Major General Ali to swiftly dispatch a police squad to Runda and arrest the untouchable foreigners. 

In their rented home, police recovered eight guns and 100 bullets, several suspected stolen vehicles, Kenya Police identity cards, and name tags showing the foreigners were deputy commissioners of police! 

Police also found balaclavas and body armour - similar to those used during the Standard Group raid, including Government-issued car number plates. 

More drama was to unfold when it emerged that Artur Margaryan and Artur Sargasyan were clandestinely spirited out of Kenya hours after arrest instead of being charged in court with capital offences. Interestingly, the two were deported to Dubai in­stead of Armenia, their country of birth. 

Surprisingly, Maj Gen Ali was again caught flat-footed when the duo were secretly spirited out of Kenya. 

An ordinary Kenyan who could have even remotely dared to do what the foreigners did would be cooling his heels at one of Kenya’s death-trap jails. 

Being in possession of firearms without a firearm cer­tificate is a serious criminal offence. It would have been suicidal to drag the two to court for fear they might spill beans on their criminal activities in Kenya and their associates at the apex of the government. 

It is after the airport gun drama that more details unfolded of how the police chief and the two Armenians plotted the Standard Group raid

On Tuesday, Senior Counsel Philip Murgor said he was edged out of the powerful office of Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) in December 2006 by powerful forces in the Kibaki administration on account of his resolve to unmask the ghosts behind the Sh6.4 billion cocaine haul, which Artur brothers were later reported to be eyeing. 

He claims his woes started when he demanded a transparent internationally accepted investigation to expose the powerful individuals in the Kibaki administration linked to the importation of the drugs into Kenya. He immediately fell out with Kiraitu Murungi, the then Minister of Justice.

“It was decided that I had to be fired immediately,” claims Murgor.

 Artur Margaryan and Artur Sargasyan. [File, Standard]

The cartel, which involved top policemen, he said, was also unhappy with his written directions that international drug enforcement and security agencies be involved in the transparent disposal of the seized cocaine. 

Under local and international pressure, President Kibaki on June 13, 2006, suspended Kamau as CID chief and 10 other Government officers as he appointed a Commission of Inquiry, chaired by former Commissioner of Police Shedrack Kiruki, to investigate events leading to the deportation of two Armenian brothers and their accomplices. 

Among those suspended were Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) deputy managing director Naomi Cidi and Winnie Wangui, daughter of Mary Wambui, who was an assistant secretary at the Ministry of Water. Others were junior police and customs officers at JKIA. Surprisingly, the Kanga Squad was left intact. 

In his statement to the media, President Kibaki said he was setting up the Commission of Inquiry because of the security breach at JKIA. There was no mention of the raid on Standard Group.

The commission included Kiruki as chairman and Bishop Horace Etemesi as Vice Chairman. 

The Kiruki Commission held public sittings at the KICC plenary hall for several weeks. The government had a high stake in the proceedings and only selected harmless witnesses to testify before the commission. 

CID chief Kamau and other key witnesses were not called to the witness box, although they sent their lawyers to represent them and counter any possible damage to their reputation. 

Neither Mary Wambui, an alleged business associate of the Arturs, nor her daughter, whom Margaryan publicly announced was her lover and was planning to marry, were called as witnesses to say what they knew about the deported foreigners. 

Unknown to the public, most information and material evi­dence submitted to the Kiruki Commission was doctored. 

For instance, the guns seized from the Arturs at Runda and submitted to the commission had their se­rial numbers erased to conceal the fact that they had originated from the police armoury. Who was capable of doing that and why? 

To ensure the disgruntled police commissioner didn’t spill the beans and for the government to fully manage its dark secrets, Michuki opted to take the witness box on behalf of the Kenya police and government. 

For the 15 minutes he was in the witness box, Michuki went through government bureaucracy, with no hint of exposing any dark state secrets. 

An unapologetic Michuki confessed to ordering the deportation of the crooks instead of charging them for their crimes. 

The Kiruki Commission ended in an anti-climax. The team presented its report to President Kibaki on August 31, 2006. The report was dismissed by government critics as a cover-up. 

The commission had cleared CID chief Kamau from any wrongdoing in relation to the Arturs. 

Interestingly, the government added another twist to the Artur saga by stating that it would not release the Kiruki Commission report on the two alleged brothers due to national security considerations. 

Describing the Artur brothers’ saga as one of the biggest scandals of the Narc Government, Raila Odinga said in Parliament that a lot of taxpayers’ money was spent in the probe and MPs were justified to demand that the Kiruki Commission report be made public.But Internal Security Assistant Minister Peter Munya told angry MPs the government had studied the contents and the recommendations of the report and making it public would not be in the best interest of the country’s security.

 Artur Margaryan and Artur Sargasyan. [File, Standard]

“It contains matters on the country’s immigration centres, airport security and clearance, which would best be handled internally by the concerned organs instead of being made public,” he said.But unsatisfied with Munya’s response Ndhiwa MP Orwa Ojode, said the government was not being genuine but instead wanted to hide something from Kenyans.“Mr Speaker Sir, the hearing was heard in public and funded by taxpayer’s money and evidence received so I wonder what is confidential about the report?” he asked. 

The Commission made several recommendations to improve security at Kenya’s airports but held no one to account for the presence of the Arturs and their crimes. 

Sadly, the culture of impunity carried the day and more taxpayers’ money went down the drain. 

The Arturs’ saga was so embarrassing to President Kibaki and his family, since Mary Wambui presented herself as Kibaki’s second wife, the source of the story that triggered bad blood between State House and the Standard. 

President Kibaki furiously denied media reports of his family’s connection with Mary Wambui and the Artur brothers. 

Surprisingly, the President often kept quiet on weightier matters of national importance affecting ordinary Kenyans. 

While setting up the Kiruki commission on the Artur brothers, President Kibaki was trying to distance himself from the latest bizarre political intrigue rocking his presidency. 

Mary Wambui had become a darling of the media after President Kibaki became president in 2002 over her self-confessed relationship with the President. 

Despite being publicly disowned four times by a furious President Kibaki, once on live TV address from State House, the woman appeared to love basking in glory as journalists gave her unsolicited and free publicity. 

This put media houses and anyone who knowingly or accidentally associated Wambui with President Kibaki at loggerheads with the First Family. 

Wambui’s public appearance displayed raw power including being well guarded by presidential guards. 

Every time she provoked a public storm revolving around her alleged relationship with Kibaki, she left it upon the President and First Lady to rush to the media to clean up the mess. She loved the show. 

Although Kamau had been mysteriously cleared of any wrongdoing by the Kiruki Commission, it was politically too risky to give him back his job since President Kibaki was seeking re-election in 2007. 

Reappointing Kamau would have given Raila Odinga and his fellow government critics more arsenal for their campaign against the president. 

Kamau remained suspended until November 14, 2007, when he proceeded to retirement, two months after he was cleared. The fate of the other suspended officials was never made public. 

As the twin saga regarding the Standard raid and the Artur brothers unfolded on Kamau’s feet, Major General Ali had the last laugh. 

 Artur Margaryan and Artur Sargasyan. [File, Standard]

Kamau gambled with his career by being associated with Wambui, a woman the First Lady Lucy Kibaki hated with passion. 

On his part, Maj Gen Ali capitalised on the saga to miraculously survive as Kamau saw his illustrious CID ca­reer brought to an abrupt end. 

Before the Standard raid, Kibaki’s loyalists and Odinga had been calling for the sacking of Major General Ali for different reasons. 

Odinga, alongside four other ministers loyal to him, had been fired by President Kibaki after cracks emerged in the Cabinet after Odinga rallied Kenyans to defeat a proposed new constitution fronted by the president at a referendum held on November 21, 2005. 

Odinga’s gripe with the Police Commissioner arose from an incident in which police shot dead three children and a milk vendor in Kisumu during protests to oppose a rally by Kibaki-aligned minister Raphael Tuju. 

The region was hostile to the Kibaki administration and Tuju, then minister for information, was Kibaki’s point man in the region. Tuju had called a rally to drum up support in the passage of the proposed pro-Kibaki constitution. 

The Standard raid offered Major General Ali a new lifeline as Odinga toned down his demands for the commissioner’s sacking and turned his guns on Kamau. 

Kibaki’s administration distanced itself from Kamau and his disgraceful fall didn’t come to me as a surprise. 

However, contrary to public perception that a top policeman woke up one morning and decided to stage a raid at the Standard, interviews with key el­ements in the security machinery showed he was acting on instruc­tions from the highest office in the land. 

I was, therefore, not surprised when the Kiruki Commission gave Kamau a clean bill of health. 

Those who ordered the policeman to carry out the raid couldn’t risk crucifying him fearing he could spill the beans and bring the higher offices in the land into disrepute. 

The Kiruki Commission was formed to hoodwink Ke­nyans and the international community that the government was taking serious steps to address the Arturs’ saga. 

[Muiruri is a former editor (Crime and Security) at the Nation Media Group and former editorial consultant of The DCI magazine]

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