Juicy UK tale of $2b gemstone export from Kenya


At the behest of two UK newspapers, the Guardian and the Financial Times a three-judge Bench Court of Appeal has invoked the doctrine of open justice and allowed the newspapers to report on the intriguing but contested allegations which are likely to vibrate in the diplomatic and business communities in Kenya.

Two renowned Saudi Princes have been embroiled in a civil dispute relating to a London registered company that allegedly facilitated money laundering and helped smuggle precious stones and diamonds out of Congo using Kenya as a conduit.

The bone of contention in the case is misappropriation of monies and sale of $6.7 million worth of shares, a transaction which has thrown up a nuclear mushroom cloud.

The lawyers for the parties in the civil case have spent over a year trying to suppress the court papers but lost the battle last Thursday when the Court of Appeal ruled that;

“Global Torch has chosen to bring proceedings in this jurisdiction. This is an open Justice Jurisdiction. They have to accept that theredamaging allegations will be heard in open court in the usual way. The protection they are entitled to is a judgment delivered in public which will refute unfounded allegations. That’s how legal systems works in a democracy under the rule of law”.

The initially withheld court papers now reveal details by one of the parties. It is reported that Prince Almhairat recorded on his Iphone and then downloaded on to memory sticks (later allegedly stolen!) conversations relating to a $5 million guarantee to an intermediary in Beirut.

The second claim is the extraordinary claim relating to a charter flight paid for by one of the parties to the case FI Call Ltd in February/March 2011 from Nairobi to Amman, the Jordanian capital. It is alleged that the Charter was arranged by Saudi Prince Abdulaziz according to the warring Prince Almhairat.

Almhairat reveals that instead of camping equipment the Kenyan documents and records reveal certificates purporting to show that a mining company had been given permission in the Democratic Republic of Congo to export 5,000 kg of ore nuggets worth $5,140 million plus another export of 5,000 kg ore nuggets, 4,000 kg of ruby gemstones, 3,000 kg of green garnet, 7,000 kg of malakis stone and 1,000 kg of blue sapphire.

Court documents indicate that Almhairat sent an e-mail saying that he wanted nothing to do with the business.

He alleges that he later saw an e-mail saying the goods had been taken to Kenya and then from Kenyan Customs to the local United Nations office where officials had supposedly scanned some of the boxes, seen dollars and decided to ask money in return for “looking the other way”. The value of the shipment was said to be “2B” implying two billion, most likely in dollars.

So what does all this forestall on the Kenyan scene?

Firstly, the English Court of Appeal has strengthened the transparency of British Justice and the rule of law by stating that court documents are not privileged and once in court can be brought to public domain and parties cannot bar disclosure by courts.

And even a more interesting legal concept is that interested parties with public interest — in this case two newspapers — have certain rights even in civil cases and which rights are enforceable as indicted by the proactive and aggressive approach of the two UK newspapers.

The parties in the UK case argued that allegation should not be aired in open court because of sovereign immunity, because they were false, because the consequences would create diplomatic animosity, the relations between nations would be compromised, and the safety of the litigants and others would be in danger — all arguments held to be extraneous.

A further preliminary hearing is due to take place soon in London where arguments will focus on an application by prices, they, the UK courts do not have jurisdiction.

The possibility of part of the claim being tried in Kenya is not unreal.

The tangent of the case is that reporting restrictions on sensitive commercial disputes is in public interest and attempts by wealthy litigants to try and close court doors by applying privacy for their claims will be shunned by courts.

And what do we make of allegations dubbed as the “Nairobi transaction?” Congo gemstones, Customs department, charter flights, alleged corruption — Have we not heard all these before, is this not an all of familiar scenario?

The allegations that the United Nations premises were used must raise eyebrows.

The bottomline is that the Director of Public Prosecution must of necessity commence an investigation; he is duty bound to do so.

He can treat the UK papers as evidence from a whistle blower and fulfill his mandate.

The diplomats, the Customs & Excise personnel, the aviation industry must tell Kenyans how did $2 billion worth of gemstones first come into Kenya, and then depart unceremoniously?

The writer is a lawyer.

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