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Con game extra ordinary: Businessmen paying millions for non-existent gold from DR Congo

NATIONAL
By Kamau Muthoni | August 1st 2021

Nine years ago, President Mwai Kibaki and his Democratic Republic of Congo counterpart Joseph Kabila held an urgent meeting. On top of the agenda was Sh10 billion gold that had been snatched from the Congo and traced to Kenya.

Kabila had taken the unprecedented flight for emergency talks with Kibaki, alarmed by huge consignments of stolen gold that was being smuggled into Kenya by some senior government officials.

Both Kabila and Kibaki vowed to tame the monster. They are now retired, but the racketeers have not. They continue to use Kenya as a nexus for their trafficking and con games.

The pain of this racket is being felt thousands of kilomtres away in foreign capitals in Europe, Asia and America.

The east of DR Congo is rich in gold, tin and coltan. Coltan is used to manufacture mobile phones.

From court documents, Kenya’s financial institutions have also been turned into channels to launder the funds gained from the illicit international fake gold trade.

One of the victims is Chui Bing Sung from Hong Kong, China, who owns Checkmate Capital Limited. Although based in China, Chui’s heart and mind are focused on the Kenyan court, which he hopes will help him recover some $6.7 million (Sh727 million).

He opted to pursue the money in person by filing a civil court case in Nairobi.

“I was recently made a victim of a complex gold trading scam… I transferred USD6.7 million towards what I believed would be the legitimate purchase of gold,” Chui says in his court papers.

Meet all expenses

According to the documents, he had set out to purchase gold from DRC, Tanzania, Ivory Coast and Sierra Leone. The consignment was to be delivered to Hong Kong where he was to meet all the expenses.

From DRC he was to get 740 kilos of the precious metal in three batches; one containing 105 kilos, another 385 kilos and the last one, 50 kilos.

Chui narrates that he was to get 125 kilos of Tanzania’s gold, 90 kilos from Sierra Leone and 50 from Cote d’Ivoire.

Sometime last year, Chui says he was introduced to Elijah Murenzi Maliba by his fellow Chinese, Chien Hoe Yong.  In the court records, Maliba is also known as Brian Otieno Oliende.

According to Chui, Maliba introduced himself as a Congolese national, a director and a majority shareholder of Ngeweshe Mining Company Limited. The company, Chui learnt from Maliba, was registered in DRC and was affiliated to Ngeweshe Mining Group Limited in Kenya.

Maliba promised he would help procure gold from DRC. According to Chui, Maliba had with him Ngeweshe Mining Company documents, which were allegedly signed by the shareholders and letters issued by the DRC embassy in Kenya.

He says upon investigations, he discovered the papers given to him were fake.

According to Chui, he transferred $94,000 (Sh10 million) to an account at Credit Bank on instructions by Hoe for the 105 kilos of gold. The account, he says, was registered under the name Brian Otieno Oliende. He has also sued Joseph Lugansa over the 105 kilos.

“Through his investigations, the first plaintiff (Chui) discovered that the third defendant (Maliba or Otieno) had falsified his DRC passport and the individual he was dealing with was a Kenyan named Bruno Otieno Oliende the owner of the account held by the interested party (Credit Bank),” Chui’s court papers read.

From the agreement, the 105 kilos would find their way from Congo to Nairobi on July 19, 2020. It would be rerouted to Hong Kong through Istanbul, Turkey. The deal was to use Skyway Cargo, a shipping firm based in Kenya.

The flight

The second consignment, 350 kilos, would be shipped three months later on November 10, 2020, by Travelvog, a charter company also based in Kenya. It would move from DRC to Nairobi, then through Dubai to Hong Kong.

At the same time, on the same day, November 10, 2020, Global Freight Management Limited was to ship 50 kilos of gold through an Emirates Flight EK722. Hoe was to travel with the consignment through the airport. Chui paid for this flight.

He narrates that on Hoe’s instructions, he deposited $5.5 million (Sh597 million) to an escrow account at National Bank in 17 tranches.

Chui claims, “Despite making the above payments into the two escrow accounts held by the first and third interested parties (National  Bank and Credit Bank), the plaintiffs are yet to receive a refund or profit from the various investments in the gold business or any of the gold consignments from the DRC.”

In March and April last year, Hoe informed Chui that Tanzania Revenue Authority owed him a $376 million (Sh40 billion) tax refund and he needed a loan to help recover the money.

Following the plea, Chui says he transferred $11,000 (Sh1.1 million) to Hoe’s account at United Overseas Bank Limited. He again wired him RMB34,250 (Sh575,000) on April 3, 2020, to his account at the Bank of China.

Chui sent Hoe on his WeChat payment platform RMB27,397 (Sh460,000) and RMB23,000 (Sh386,000) on March 29 and May 13, 2020.

Meanwhile, Chui says Jonathan Okoth Opande was to coordinate delivery and export of the 125 kilos of gold from Tanzania, procure the necessary export certificates and deal with customs.

Chui was however required to pay for the transactions.

For this, the gold prospector says he paid $266,800 (Sh28 million) in an escrow account held by Osewe Alphonce Collins Opiyo at United Bank for Africa Kenya Limited to sort the Tanzania deal.

He also wired $167,200 (Sh18 million) to Kenedy Anyanga’s account at Stanbic Bank Kenya also for the Tanzania gold.

Chui says he did not get the gold. He wants the banks to answer questions on the dealings of those accounts.

“Despite demand and notice of intention to file suit having been issued, the defendants have refused and or neglected to pay the amount claimed and continue with such wrongful failure, refusal and neglect,” Chui’s papers read.

Elisha Nyakuri, on behalf of Stanbic Bank, told the court that on December 31, 2019, Anyanga opened two personal accounts – a Kenya shillings one and a dollar account. He urged the court to discharge the bank, as there were no orders being sought against it.

National Bank also opposed the case, arguing that filling the questionnaire would incriminate the account holders. It argued that Chui was on a fishing expedition.

Chui sought to freeze the accounts in the hope of recouping the money.

Justice Mbogholi Msagha froze the accounts on May 27, 2021 and directed that any nominees or any person claiming any right of interest under or through them should wait for the hearing and determination of the case.

Trace the money

He also allowed Chui to trace the money or assets bought by the men he claims to have swindled him. This is the first time an individual is personally seeking redress from the court.

“Pending the hearing and determination of the suit, the plaintiffs be and are hereby allowed to trace the money deposited into the above-mentioned accounts with a view of tracing the assets purchased by and proceeds of funds deposited into the said accounts,” Justice Msagha ruled.

Chui is not the only victim. Franciscus Johannes Maria Christina from the Netherlands is also cracking his head on how he will get back more than Sh200 million in yet another case before the court. Maria opted to use the Asset Recovery Authority route to recover his money.

The 53-year-old investor narrates in statements attached to ARA case that he was introduced through WhatsApp.

The sender sent a draft sales agreement dated October 11, 2020, from Global Freight Management. The seller of the gold was George Fundu of P.O. Box 00200 Nairobi.

He says he checked the company with the Netherlands foreign affairs ministry in Kenya and was told that the firm had been shipping items for more than seven years.

On January 3 this year, Maria says he accompanied Ewout Haanstra, also from the Netherlands, to meet the seller of the items he wanted in Nairobi. He was after the gold but the consignment would be mvule and mahogany timber from Congo.

The following day, Fundu picked them up from Raddisson Blue and their destination was Close 4.1 G2 Kitisuru Road. This is where Global Freight’s offices are located.

The trio then proceeded to Flamingo Towers, second floor Wing B and this time were to discuss how to wire money to an escrow account.

On January 5, 2021, the two Dutchmen wanted to check the gold smelting process. Maria says Global Freight introduced them to a company called Evergreen located at Kyuna Close, Nairobi, but they did not like it.

Good name

“We suggested to use Alinina Precious Metals (APM) as we heard this company is a very good name in this business,” he narrates in his court documents. APM is located behind Avalon Bar and Restaurant at Sri Aurobindo Avenue.

At APM they met another man who introduced himself as a United Nations employee. The next step was how to ship 50 kilos of gold and they selected Smart Ultra Vault (SUV). For this, they were taken to an office in Spin Valley (presumably Spring Valley) and got a Mr Hussein who would be the man for the job.

On January 8, Global Freight driver by the name Michaal picked them up for another meeting at its office. Here, he says, they saw two trucks with security people.

“We had to turn in our mobile phones and went to the garage where we saw boxes. There was a person called Kenneth that was introduced by Nick, a customer officer,” Maria narrates.

The two boxes were sealed. According to Maria, Fundu asked him to sign for him and unseal the boxes, which contained the nuggets. Fundu, whom he refers to as George, closed the boxes and this time gave Kenneth new numbers of the seal.

They then need to test if they were real. A man named Samir showed them six to seven bars, which were 96 per cent pure gold. “So we were fine,” says Maria, adding that again the boxes were sealed with two blue seals both numbered 00631126. Again, Kenneth made George sign a book that these seal numbers were registered.

Maria says the two boxes were loaded into a black truck and his colleague Ewout sat on the boxes to Spin Valley where they were to be stored.

Elated that he had landed a gold mine, they were in to sign sale of purchase agreement for gold. On January 25, 2021, Kenneth gave him the paperwork but did not have all the forms. The entry form, allegedly called C17B form, was brought by George to a restaurant.

Curiously, Section Four of the agreement read that in the event of claims or loss, the buyer could not go for the seller’s heir or his descendants, trustees or any intermediaries.

Exonerated

“Notwithstanding all articles mentioned in this agreement, it is agreed between the parties that the seller’s heir, trustees and all intermediaries are exonerated and held harmless from any claims or liabilities of any nature that may arise from this transaction,” the agreement also filed in court reads.

According to the agreement, Maria was also to hire a private jet from Nairobi to fly the gold to the Netherlands.

Kenneth said the form had an error as it stated 1,400 kilos and left the premises. In addition, having secured 50 kilos, they were to have 500 more kilos from Congo. They again met at Zen Garden and Kenneth asserted they needed to lift all the gold. George promised to go back to Congo and try sort out the paperwork.

The two flew back to Netherlands and from their conversation, George said he would either pay their money back or arrange for the payment of the 1,400 kilos.

According to the court documents, a consignment was to land in Nairobi containing 532 tonnes of gold disguised as hardwood. One of the firms given the tender to transport the wood was Mudabale Merchant Limited.

Its director, Elvis Muga Ouma, told ARA that the firm deals in pest control. He also supplies stationery.

According to his statement, which is also filed in court by the agency, he received Sh37 million to supply plywood from East Africa destined for the Netherlands but the money held at Co-operative Bank was frozen before he could access it.

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