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Police raid Kamlesh Pattni offices in JKIA fire investigation

Police officers leave Kamlesh Pattni’s offices in Westlands after a four hour raid on Saturday. [PHOTO:GEORGE MULALA/ STANDARD]

By Felix Olick and Cyrus Ombati

Nairobi, Kenya: Detectives have raided the home and offices of controversial businessman Kamlesh Pattni in connection with the devastating fire that crippled operations at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) earlier this month.

The beleaguered billionaire businessman was Saturday afternoon questioned at the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) headquarters over several issues including the inferno, one of his lawyers and police said.

Pattni, who was later released, says he was probed on the JKIA fire.

CID officers descended simultaneously on Pattni’s offices in Westlands as well as his home in the leafy suburbs of Kitusuru in the wee hours of Saturday where they carted away documents and later detained some of his workers.

The Standard on Sunday has established that the well-orchestrated operation is in connection with the recent JKIA inferno that razed the entire arrivals terminal of East Africa’s biggest airport.

Other officers said they were also checking on claims that the Goldenberg architect was hosting illegal immigrants at his premises.

The officers landed at Pattni’s offices at about 6.30am and seized several documents including laptops and central processing units (CPU’s), in what is believed could give crucial leads into the investigations.

“They thoroughly ransacked the offices for more than four hours,” explained one of Pattni’s employees in Westlands. “After the operation, they left with several documents including six laptops, five CPU’s, an iPhone, iPad and three flash disks.”

CID director Ndegwa Muhoro confirmed the operation but said he had not been fully informed or briefed on the same.

Concealed number plates

Inspector General of Police David Kimaiyo said he had not been fully briefed on what the officers recovered.

 “I am still waiting for the officers to tell us what they have obtained from the operation. I can’t comment for now,” said Kimaiyo.

Their statements seemed unusual because ordinarily they would know details of such an operation.

Saturday’s operation appeared mysterious as the officers who declined to talk to the press had all the number plates of the vehicles carrying the confiscated materials concealed.

Security guards at the buildings said the officers declined to identify themselves and forced their way through one of the gates.

“We cannot not tell whether they were genuine police officers or criminals because they declined to identify themselves,” said a security guard on how the officers forced their way into the compound.

According to workers at Pattni’s offices, they broke into the closed rooms and were seen looking through documents. Another security guard narrated his ordeal in the hands of the officers whom he claimed brandished a gun at him after assaulting him numerously for trying to get a glimpse of what they were doing.

Pattni is involved in a tussle with the Kenya Airports Authority over duty free shops after he was kicked out of the premises at the JKIA.

A fire broke out at the airport a week after he was kicked out of the place amid claims he might have known about it. Pattni has denied the accusations.

An interim report that was released on the fire ruled out terrorism. Police have since narrowed down arson as the main cause of the fire but they are yet to establish the motive. Investigators have also blamed negligence and incompetence of KAA staff for the fire.

The final report on the fire is expected out on Tuesday, officials aware of the operations have said.  This was after tests found traces of fuel at the site of the fire and interrogated a number of suspects.  So far, more than 200 people have been grilled over the incident.

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