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Uncertainty over whereabouts of Venezuelans arrested at JKIA

IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Mystery surrounds the whereabouts of three Venezuelans arrested in connection with possessing sensitive election materials at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA).

While the lawyer representing Jose Gregorio Camargo Castellanos, Salvador Javier Sosa Suarez and Joel Gustavo Rodriguez Garcia yesterday maintained his clients were still in the hands of Anti-Terrorism Police Unit (ATPU), senior government officials remained tight-lipped on where they are being held with the police engaging in a ping pong on where they are being held.

Lawyer Duncan Okubasu yesterday said the foreigners were being interrogated at ATPU headquarters where The Standard team tried in vain to establish if they were being held there.

Security officers manning two gates at the premises said they were not aware the Venezuelans were their guests. “I have consulted and there are no such people here. Ask for accurate information from whoever gave you the tip-off,” said one of the officers.

However, sources within the diplomatic circles confirmed to The Standard that the three were still in the country.

The sources said the three men yesterday reported back to ATPU where they were not required to record statements. “We have been in contact with them and we can confirm that they are cooperating with the investigators, “said an official aware of the matter.

Sources within the government hinted of plans to deport the three back to Venezuela after investigations revealed that there was a problem with their documentation.

Since being arrested last Thursday, little has been heard about them with their lawyers appearing to have restricted access to them.  

The three initially recorded statements at JKIA Police Station before being handed over to ATPU sleuths for further grilling.

Although Okubasu maintained his clients were being interrogated, he was attending to other engagements.

“I know they are there being interrogated right now, please can we talk later because I am currently held up in a meeting,” said Okubasu on a day it had been expected his clients would either be charged, freed or deported.

Since being arrested last Thursday, little has been heard about the Venezuelans. [File, Standard]

However, a police source said the suspects can be grilled elsewhere. “It is not a must that they are interrogated from the ATPU headquarters, it’s not unusual for suspects to be grilled elsewhere,” said the officer.

There were however unconfirmed reports that ATPU detectives had handed over the Venezuelans to another elite police squad.

Police Spokesman Bruno Shiosho yesterday said the Venezuelans were still in police custody.

“The last time I made an inquiry I was informed they are being handled by immigration officials,” said Shiosho.

When contacted, Abdullahi Abdi Mohamed, the businessman who invited the foreigners declined to shed light on their whereabouts.

“I will not talk again, you cast me in negative light,” he said. Mohamed had on Monday said Jose, Salvador and Joel were legally in the country after his firm, Seamless Limited, invited the trio to be part of his team that offers IT solutions.

In a newspaper advert yesterday, Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission Chairman Wafula Chebukati said part of the contract signed by Smartmatic International Holdings was that they provide a local agent and also provide a support and maintenance plan which they did.

“One of the conditions in the tender document was that the bidder should provide a detailed support and maintenance plan and attach documentary proof of ICT technical support staff with a registered office in Kenya. Smartmatic complied with this condition by providing a local partner,” IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati said in a statement.

Seamless Limited is the local agent of Smartmatic International Holdings, the company contracted by Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to supply, deliver, install, test, commission, support and maintain Kenya Integrated Election Management System (KIEMS).

Director of Criminal Investigations (DCI) George Kinoti, Immigrations director general Alexander Muteshi and ATPU head Martin Otieno maintained studious silence with Muteshi in a short text message saying: “Please get details from DCI.”