US links minister, governor to Akasha drugs network

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In Summary

• Local prosecutors are preparing to deal with requests from their US counterparts, Nation sources said.

• Other senior officials on the US wanted list are an outspoken Rift Valley MP, a prosecutor, two High Court judges, two magistrates, and a senior criminal investigations officer.

• The Akasha family took advantage of the networks here and built a multi-million-shilling empire based on trafficking of both soft and hard drugs.

A Cabinet Secretary and a controversial governor are among more than 10 prominent Kenyans that the US Department of Justice is investigating over allegations of taking bribes from the notorious Akasha drug family.

The 10 are what a local judicial source described as “most culpable”, although many more have been mentioned in the documents exchanged between Kenyan and American law enforcement agencies.

In what is shaping up to become one of the biggest transnational narcotics investigations in recent times, local prosecutors are preparing to deal with requests from their US counterparts, Nation sources said.

EXTRADITION

The requests by Washington, expected to be submitted by mid-December, might culminate in extradition proceedings against Kenyan suspects to face charges in the US, the sources said.

Other than the CS and the governor — who has previously been anecdotally linked to the criminal underworld and drug dealing — other senior officials on the US wanted list are an outspoken Rift Valley MP, a prosecutor, two High Court judges, two magistrates, and a senior criminal investigations officer.

They are all linked to the Mombasa-based Akasha family, which in its heyday built a golden triangle that ensnared all those who came their way, whether as customers, peddlers, spoilers, or accomplices.

PLEADED GUILTY

Last month two Akasha brothers accused by US prosecutors of playing key roles in the family’s drugs business pleaded guilty to drug trafficking charges in New York. Baktash Akasha and his brother Ibrahim pleaded guilty to seven criminal charges, including distribution of heroin and conspiracy to import drugs into the US.

During the Akashas’ bloody reign as one of Kenya’s most notorious crime families, the coastal region was awash with drugs that neither the police nor the judicial system appeared able to tame.

Nobody dared touch the Akashas, and for years they were the law — just like their father Ibrahim Akasha, a glorified trafficker who was shot dead in May 2000 by a lone cyclist in Bloedstraat, or Blood Street, a red-light district of Amsterdam where prostitutes work side by side with drug dealers.



DRUG DEALER

In The Netherlands, Akasha did business with drug dealer Mounir Barsoum, an Egyptian who masqueraded as a coffee shop proprietor. Mounir and his brother Magdi owned Bar Red Light on the Oudezijds Achterburgwal district, the centre of drug tourism where coffee shops also sold bhang and other drugs in the open.

For decades, the Dutch tolerated the smoking of marijuana in coffee shops and turned a blind eye to the proliferation of dope smokers in such neighbourhoods. The Akasha family took advantage of the networks here and built a multi-million-shilling empire based on trafficking of both soft and hard drugs. Magdi was the broker between him and a Yugoslav dealer named Sam Klepper.

SHOT DEAD

But in the drug trade, as the senior Akasha would soon tragically realise, there is a thin line between being shot dead while pursuing a debt and rotting in jail.

He was shot dead while walking towards Magdi’s cafe alongside his Egyptian wife Gazi Hayat to pursue a debt from the Yugoslav cartels led by Klepper.

The assassin emptied a burst of six rounds into Akasha, tearing through his face, heart and abdomen, and killing him instantly. Police thought Magdi was behind the assassination in order to vanish with the money.

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Five months later, in a killing cycle that intrigued the Dutch police, Klepper, the man who always bought cannabis from Akasha, was assassinated too. In October 2002, Akasha’s broker Magdi, the man thought to have lured him to the death trap, was also shot dead.

And in July 2004, Magdi’s brother Mounir was also killed at the wheel of his car. Amsterdam’s Blood Street had lived up to its reputation.

FAKE PASSPORTS

Senior Akasha had four passports — two Dutch and two Kenyan — all fake, according to Dutch authorities. By the time of his death, he had invested in various properties in Mombasa and had Sh500 million in foreign and local bank accounts, 60 kilogrammes of gold ingots, six luxury cars, six mansions, and jewellery with an estimated value of Sh58 million.

As merchants of vice, the Akashas controlled the high seas and the dry land, and shipped in as much hashish and cocaine as they could while enjoying protection from the same security officials that taxpayers paid to watch their back.

The death of the senior Akasha came at a time when police were pursuing him after heroin worth Sh900 million was found in one of his homes in Mombasa. But this kick-started another feud within the family over the sharing of the properties. And, privately, on who would inherit the drug networks.

CLOSE CONFIDANT

Kamaldin, son of Akasha’s divorced wife Karim, stood out. He was the eldest and his father’s bodyguard and close confidant. As such, he was set to inherit the drugs business and perhaps run the property show. During the day he was a petrol dealer running an obscure outlet near the Makupa roundabout in Mombasa, metres away from Makupa Police Station.

On the evening of March 28, 2002, Kamaldin was relaxing in his Land Rover Discovery, perhaps enjoying the cool breeze blown into Mombasa by the winds of the Indian Ocean, when a green Toyota AE100 drove to his petrol station.

Witnesses say that “a white, slender man … dressed in a black T-shirt and a woollen hood” approached the Land Rover from behind and shot Kamaldin three times. The motive? “Not known”, according to police.

TWO BROTHERS

But when Kamaldin’s two brothers — Hassan and Baktash — went to the scene, they publicly claimed that their stepbrother Nuri, alias Tinta, was responsible for the shooting. Hassan later claimed in court documents that the deceased had also told him that Nuri had threatened him several times, including in the week he died.

The fallout was over property since Nuri, son of Akasha’s second wife Hayat, was the chairman of the committee tasked with distribution of the estate of the late drug baron.

Nuri, like other members of the Akasha family, walked around armed. He had been reported to the police for threatening Nurdin, Baktash, Hassan and the deceased at various times, but still kept his gun.

Following Kamaldin’s death, police arrested Nuri and his brothers Baktash, Hassan, and Yusin. All were later released without charge.

CASE BUNGLED

Police bungled the investigation by failing to summon Daniel Kiarie Waweru, the man who witnessed the shooting, to the identification parade. They had also presented a 9mm pistol for examination while the three spent cartridges had been fired from a Skorpion sub-machine gun.

But some members of the Akasha family believed that the man responsible for Kamaldin’s death was Serbian drug-dealer Stojananovic Milan, whose Mombasa girlfriend worked as an air-hostess. Milan was a business ally of the late Akasha and a frequent visitor to their Mombasa home.

It was Milan and Jackson Waweru who would later be arrested over Kamaldin’s death.

According to Gazi Hayat Akasha, the second wife of the late Ibrahim Akasha, her husband and Waweru were dealers in hashish and bhang, alongside Milan and Kamaldin. She told the court that her late husband and Milan were also involved in “Mafia-like activities”.



HARMLESS

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And Hayat would have known, for she was the one who witnessed the killing of Akasha in Amsterdam as they walked to Magdi’s cafe. She had accompanied her husband for what he had told her was a harmless visit to see a doctor in The Netherlands over his incessant diabetes and hypertension, which had now triggered an eye problem.

Hayat told the court that on the week that Ibrahim Akasha was killed, he had received a call from his son Baktash informing him that Kamaldin and Waweru had broken into Milan’s house in Mombasa and stolen a substantial amount of hashish.

Akasha, according to his wife, “was shocked”. He knew that in the world of smugglers, dealers and shot-callers, theft was a serious offence. He asked Madgi to inform Milan of the theft, and Milan was livid. He called Akasha and threatened him.

YUGOSLAV CARTEL

So as Akasha walked towards the cafe at 9am, two things were on his mind: Milan’s hashish and the money owed to him by Klepper of the Yugoslav cartel. Then, according to Hayat, a bicycle bell rang from behind.

Hayat turned to look at the cyclist but her husband kept walking. Hayat saw a heavily built cyclist, about 5ft 7 inches tall, draw a gun, aim at Akasha, and shoot.

The first bullet hit him in the back, the second above the left eye, the third on the left side of the head, and the fourth near the right eye. The last bullet hit Akasha on the stomach. He was dead within seconds.

A hysterical Hayat ran into Magdi’s shop to break the news — and ask for one favour: not to mention Milan, Kamaldin and the stolen Hashish.

THREATENED

Two years later, she would reveal in court that, indeed, Milan had not only threatened her, but also boasted that he had killed Kamaldin and would also kill her son Nuri, alias Tinta, and one more member of the Akasha family. She reported the threat to Mombasa police and always thought that Magdi’s death was related to what he knew about the missing hashish.

Two-and-half years after Kamaldin’s death, members of the Akasha family, led by Nuri, learnt that Milan was set to arrive at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi on Friday, November 12, 2004. Nuri’s friends Ali and Abed phoned lawyer John Khaminwa, “who arranged for the police” to come and arrest Milan, the court heard.

Milan had left Moi International Airport using his Yugoslav passport on March 27, 2002, a day before Kamaldin was killed at his petrol station. Hence, his defence stated, he was not the man at the scene of crime.

VANISHED

Instead, Mombasa police, led by Urban DCIO Boniface Ngatia, arrested another Yugoslav by the name Milan at a South Coast nightclub. That Yugoslav was a friend of Nuri Akasha and was not related to Stojananovic Milan, the alleged drug dealer.

It is not clear why police arrested this man and where he vanished to after Ngatia told the Coast provincial police boss that there was no tangible evidence against the three suspects — Nuri, Baktash and a white man known by the name Milan. The PPO agreed and the main suspects were released. The mysterious Milan disappeared, and Nuri would later say he had died.

CASE TERMINATED

It was Ahmed Omar Abdullahi who would eventually be charged with Kamaldin’s murder in Mombasa. But after the prosecution called 12 witnesses out of a list of 14, the case was terminated by the Attorney General on February 21, 2005.



Seventeen months after the gangland execution of Kamaldin, Baktash Akasha, who at first linked Kamaldin’s death to his stepbrother Nuri, went to see the Mombasa Urban DCIO Boniface Ngatia with one intention: to have the still-threatening Stojananovic Milan jailed.

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Ngatia had also been told by an informer that a clearing and forwarding agent named Ng’ang’a Waweru was involved, too.

On August 12, 2003, Ngatia was in his office when Baktash Akasha reported that he had received death threats from a person he identified as Stojananovic Milan through his cell phone.

INADMISSIBLE

Ngatia advised Baktash to have the conversation recorded, but the admissibility of the tape would later be hotly contested in court and, finally, declared inadmissible by Justice Nicholas Ombija.

Feisal Akasha was at JKIA’s Unit 3 on November 12, 2004 when he saw Milan by sheer chance. He called his brother Nuri, who was in Nairobi, and informed him that Milan was heading to the City Centre. Nuri had known that Milan was coming and had laid the trap.

What we know is that Nuri “waylaid” the Serbian drug-dealer while en route to the Grand Regency Hotel in Nairobi on November 12, 2004. While in the car, Milan threatened Nuri with the words: “Let us go to the hotel and talk, or you will regret.” The Serbian said there was no need of calling the police as he would bribe his way out and thereafter he would kill the Akashas “like dogs”. He also boasted, according to Nuri, that he would kill him the way he had killed Abdalla Akasha.

OLD CASE

At the Grand Regency, police inspector Nathan Kiplagat, in the company of five other officers, found Milan at the hotel lobby together with Waweru, the clearing and forwarding agent.

The complainants were Nuri, Nuri’s mother (Hayat) and Nuri’s brother, all part of the Akasha family. He confiscated their mobile phones and took them to Central Police Station. Milan had in his possession $10,000 (about Sh1 million) and a further $50,000 (Sh5 million) was recovered from his hotel room.

The case against Milan and Waweru collapsed after the judge found that the prosecution had taken all the evidence of the old case, which had been withdrawn, and “rehashed it with no credible witnesses or evidence” against Milan and Waweru. Both have sued the Akasha family and the State for Sh1 billion for wrongful prosecution.

But as their case was progressing, “forces of darkness” — according to Justice Ombjia — descended into the Mombasa court registry and plucked out crucial evidence regarding the case. “It appears that there is an axis of evil hell-bent on scuttling the trial,” lamented Justice Ombija.

POST-MOTERM REPORT

Gone were Kamaldin’s post-mortem report and death certificate, and the witnesses list. Justice Ombija said the file was kept inside the court’s criminal registry, and so it was difficult to explain how the vital documents could have been stolen.

Lawyers for Milan and Waweru dismissed the case as a sham and told Judge Ombija that the fresh trial was “a massive cover-up” by the police who had allowed the real murderers walk scot-free.

In his judgment, Justice Ombija said “the real killers of the deceased are out there”.

It was a drug war with no victor: only victims. And now the Americans have walked into the picture.

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