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2019 crime in review: The end of the Akasha narcotics empire

NAIROBI
By Standard Team | December 27th 2019

Baktash Akasha (left) and his brother Ibrahim Akasha (right) when they appeared in a Mombasa court for their extradition case on January 2, 2017.

 

In August, convicted drug lord Baktash Akasha was on August 17 handed a 25-year jail sentence by a US court.

In what dealt a mortal blow to the Akasha narcotics empire, Baktash was slapped with pay a fine of Sh10 million from the proceeds of their illicit trade.

Mixed reactions greeted the sentencing as focus turned on the collaborators of the Akashas in Kenyan political and criminal justice sectors.

It was a culmination of a swift process that saw Baktash plead guilty before a trial, giving up most of his rights in exchange of the sentence he got.

And as the sentence was handed, it emerged that Baktash had agreed to be deported. If he were to be deported, he was not going to return to the US ever again, according to the deal.

“Do you understand that if you are not a US citizen that your guilty plea and conviction will presumptively result in your mandatory deportation and removal from the US and that you will have no right to withdraw your plea by virtue of any adverse immigration consequence?” the court asked him while affirming the deal.

Under oath, the 44-year-old responded: “Yes, your Honour.”

Baktash and his brother Ibrahim Akasha never saw each other for the two years from when they landed in the US until they both pleaded guilty. Ibrahim will be sentenced on November 8.

Ibrahim was held at Metropolitan Correctional Centre in Manhattan, New York, while Baktash was 15 kilometres away in Metropolitan Detention Centre, Brooklyn.

Baktash Akasha and his brother Ibrahim Akasha (right) when they appeared before a Mombasa court for their extradition case shortly before they were extradited to the US in 2017.

The third strand of the agreement was that Baktash would not appeal in the event the US government failed to provide to him information that would aid him defend himself.

He was also asked whether he had any promises or was threatened by US authorities to make him plead guilty. He replied in the negative.

Baktash’s private life came to light when a US Court started his trial alongside that of his brother Ibrahim. Away from his messy drugs trade, he had a personal life that most would not have known were it not for the criminal case.

He told the judge that he studied up to Grade 12, an equivalent of Fourth Form. He also revealed that he is diabetic, suffers from hypertension and has ulcers.

Judge Morrero asked Baktash whether he had been under a doctor’s care or any health professional. He replied that he had been taking insulin injection and pressure pills.

After pleading guilty, the judge asked him to explain in his own words what he had done that made him guilty. He said that between March 2014 and January 2017, he had hatched a deal to transport to US a kilo of heroin and more than 500 grammes of amphetamine.

He also confessed that during the same period, he aided the distribution of the two drugs in Kenya and elsewhere. He said he had agreed that the transporters would protect his drugs using machine guns. He also admitted bribing Kenyan officials in a bid to beat his extradition.

“I knew that the conduct I have admitted was wrong and was against the law,” he testified.

'We had top judges and the police in our pockets'

Government officials sustained the Akasha family drug empire through an elaborate bribery scheme and shielded them so much so that the US connived to airlift them away.

Materials adduced ahead of the sentencing of two Akasha brothers -- Baktash and Ibrahim -- show that they had successfully managed to stall their own extradition cases by first obtaining bail, repeated adjournments and generally slowing the wheel of justice.

In an indictment of the Kenyan judiciary, the US attorney prosecuting the case told the judges that senior State officials who were tired of the ping pong in the corridors of justice decided “they should be expelled to USA”.

Their lawyer claimed they were kidnapped from Kenya, but the US attorney said there were credible fears that witnesses could not be flown to testify in what was described as a largely corrupted proceeding.

The DEA obtained 30 mobile phones from the brothers; some of which were seized in November 2014 when the two were initially arrested in Kenya while the additional ones were seized in January 2017 when they were extradited to the US.

It took 60 days to mine data from the mobile phone, some of which is now being used against the two. Some of the photographs and videos of the people they tortured were obtained from these phones.

From mobile phones, US authorities obtained 50 GB of data. Baktash also had a personal masseuse who wrote a letter to the court pleading that he should get a lean sentence.

“We were born into wealth. By our name. The name is big. And so whoever comes, and wherever they come from, and say this name (Akasha) they know we are drug dealers,” one of the Akasha’s was recorded as saying.

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