KENYA SUMAKU

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2004 Kenya drug haul story: the Italian perspective…

Posted by Popular Ombudsman on May 9, 2009

Couple in Malindi risk life sentence. Letter clears husband and wife, set up to cover traffickers
NAIROBI – After harassment, violence and beatings in prison, two Italians resident in Kenya now face a real risk of life imprisonment in Kenya for drug trafficking, a crime that –according to various confidential documents collected by the Corriere della Sera – they did not commit. The 1.2 tons of cocaine, valued at 70 million euros, have led to 70-year-old Angelo Ricci, from Foggia, and his wife Estella Duminga Furuli, 43, born in Argentina but of Calabrian origin, languishing for 14 months in the decaying prisons of Nairobi.
With them are five Kenyans, charged with the same offence. The couple talked to the Corriere della Sera about their life in prison: the insects they have to pick out of the food; how they have to sleep on the ground and undergo humiliations of all kinds. Their trial resumed on 27 March.
What might look like an ordinary story of drug trafficking is taking on the dimensions of a major incident. The testimony and the documents collected by the Corriere della Sera in Nairobi and Mombasa, the Kenyan port through which the drugs entered the country, implicate the highest levels of the Kenyan government, reaching as far as the president, Mwai Kibaki.
For the past few months, Kenya has been rocked by scandals involving ministers and government officials. The charges levelled against the country’s ruling class are serious and often backed by proof: corruption, embezzlement, misappropriation of public funds, the appointment of docile judges and the removal of diligent ones, attacks and police raids on newspapers investigating gigantic cases of state theft, false trails laid for investigators, suspicious deaths and murder.
An African version of Italy’s Clean Hands has set off a chain reaction of resignations, including the justice minister Kiraitu Murungi and the spectacular departure of the powerful former national security minister, Chris Murungaru, who was untouchable until a few months ago. Last summer, the Foreign Office refused Mr Murungaru a UK visa. Officially, the reason is not known, but according to diplomatic sources in Nairobi, it is clearly “money laundering and drug trafficking”.
Now the drug trafficking charges against Angelo Ricci and his wife Estella have further complicated the picture. The two were detained on 14 December 2004 at Malindi after a police raid on a villa, Rocchi House, which the couple had rented to six Dutch citizens and one Kenyan, Gorge Kiragu, on behalf of the Italian owner, Pompeo Rocchi.
Officers found a motorboat packed with 800 kilograms of very pure cocaine in the garden. The same day, officers from the Criminal Investigative Division went to the old Nairobi airport at Embakasi and discovered another 400 kilograms of drugs from the same shipment in a container. Angelo Ricci and his wife Estella were immediately arrested along with six Kenyans, one of Indian origin. Since then, their incredible story has continued in two Nairobi jails.
In a letter dated 12 October 2005, held by the Corriere and addressed to Francis K. Muthuara, private secretary to President Mwai Kibaki, Philip Murgor, the former Director of Public Prosecution (the third-highest judicial position in Kenya), writes: “For the record, I consider that the flawed investigations and prosecutions of the two cocaine cases, while I was DPP, amounted to a cover-up designed to leave the drug cartel operating between South America, Kenya and the Netherlands intact”. In another passage, the letter explains: “At the same time, the cases were grossly interfered with by the Solicitor General, acting together with certain individuals in the Office of the President”.
Philip Murgor was sacked last year on 25 May while trying to shed light on the charges of corruption, the disappearance of public money and the illicit enrichment of leading figures in the Kenyan government. “They fired me because I wanted to identify who was really responsible for the cocaine traffic, investigating the powerful circles that are covering it up”. The two Italians had nothing to do with it. They were used as scapegoats. “If they are convicted, it will only be so that those who are really guilty do not come to light”, affirmed the former director of public prosecution to the Corriere della Sera.
The cocaine was seized on 14 December 2004 after a confidential note was sent by the Dutch police to their Kenyan colleagues. The very detailed document reveals that there were “several tons of cocaine” in Kenya.
“The Dutch Law enforcement agencies passed to the Kenyan police immediately information that a narcotics cartel operating between Venezuela, Kenya and the Netherlands was in possession of several tons of cocaine in Kenya and was repackaging the cocaine for shipment to the Netherlands”.
Alleged dealers linked to the Malindi operation had just been arrested in Amsterdam: Robertus Johannes Stehman, Hendrik Baptiste Hermanj, Johan Neelen, Arien Gorter and Marinus Hendrik van Wezel.
According to a document seen by the Corriere, this information was forwarded on 8 December. Six days elapsed before the police raid on the Embakasi storeroom and the Malindi villa. “The Kenyan police”, it says, “did not act immediately. Dutch traffickers were tipped off, they calmly packed up from their base in Malindi, paid off their workers, flew to Nairobi and spent a night at the Pan Afric hotel before flying out on 12 December 2004. It is evident the traffickers were given safe passage out of Kenya by the Kenya police otherwise they would not have flown out of JKIA”. (Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi).
In a statement presented to the High Court in Nairobi, former DPP Murgor includes among those responsible for the cover-up the head of the CID James Kamau and Inspector Peter Njeru, who carried out the dubious inquiries into the cocaine case. But he also criticises Stanley Murage, a close adviser to President Kibaki.
Soon after the seizure, Mr Murgor appointed to follow the case a female prosecutor with drug-sector training, described as a “skilled, stubborn and incorruptible magistrate” and veteran of many difficult cases. But on 28 December, when the former DPP was on holiday, this magistrate was taken off the case and replaced by a colleague hurriedly called back from holiday, Oriri Onyango, the present prosecutor, who had never been in charge of a drug case before.
The order to replace the magistrate came from Mr Murgor’s subordinate, Solicitor General Wanjuki Muchemi, a business partner, according to a Chamber of Commerce document in the possession of the Corriere, of Cristopher Ndarati, himself a business partner of Chris Murungaru.
A few months later, Mr Murgor asked Mr Onyango how the investigations were proceeding but received no answer. He repeated the request. Nothing. Only after a third request did the chief prosecutor receive a brief letter stating: “There is absolutely no evidence against the three accused persons in counts 1 and 11 of Trafficking in Narcotic Drugs. The three never participated directly or indirectly in the illegal trade of the drugs in question. However, to prove the charge of unlawful permitting premises to be used for the purpose of sale or distribution of Narcotic Drugs it is incumbent upon the prosecution to maintain the main charge of trafficking in Narcotic Drugs against them notwithstanding insufficient evidence to warrant their conviction on those counts”.
But the Riccis and the other accused have spent 14 months in prison.
In Kenya, there is a persistent rumour that the cocaine held by the police has disappeared and been replaced by packages of flour. Officers are alleged to have removed it and put it back on the market. On 31 January 2005, the CID head James Kamau ordered deputy prosecutor Oriri Onyango to destroy the cocaine without informing the office of the Attorney General or obtaining court permission. It was a very serious move, according to a police officer who wishes to remain anonymous: “It was possible to burn a ton of flour and take possession of the drugs”. Mr Murgor intercepted the letter with the order and summoned to his office Oriri Onyango and CID Inspector Peter Njeru to remind them that destroying the cocaine without testing it was a crime. He ordered them to make individual tests on each of the 954 packages seized (only 42 had already been tested). Mr Kamau refused to carry out the DPP’s orders.
The American and British embassies also pressured Amos Wako, the attorney general, fearing that the drugs seized would be resold abroad. They demanded serious tests on the entire batch, not just a sample.
Experts from the United Nations, the United States and the United Kingdom, who arrived on 26 March, should complete the tests by Friday and then destroy the drugs.
“Where has the cocaine gone?” Mr Murgor then asked in a letter protesting at the lack of investigative zeal. In the last few months, members of Kenya Airways crews have been detained at London and Amsterdam airports just after landing for attempting to smuggle packages of drugs into Europe. A document explains that analyses of the drugs show that it is the same type as that confiscated at Malindi and Embakasi. “Where is it from? The batch that was seized or the one that disappeared?” Mr Murgor wonders, mindful of the fact that the Dutch detectives’ note talked about “several tons” of cocaine, and that in Malindi and Embakasi little more than one ton was seized. “Is this cocaine the portion diverted before the police made their televised raid, or is it cocaine that has since left police custody under suspicious circumstances?”
A couple of weeks ago, Keriako Tobiko, the man called by the President to replace Murgor as Director of Public Prosecution asked the court for permission to burn the batch of drugs again “for reasons of national security”.
The Pepe Inland Port company manages part of the port of Mombasa. The containers in which the white powder entered Kenya came from its dock. At first, the company was accused of taking part in the drug trafficking. It hired a lawyer, Kiriuki Muigua, to defend it. In a confidential letter sent to the embassies in Nairobi of Venezuela, Colombia, Netherlands and United States, Mr Muigua clearly accuses the CID and its head James Kamau of attempting to throw investigators off the scent. The advocate shows that in a statement, Kamau invented part of the story of the cocaine case. “We have cleared two containers which should have carried furniture coming from China”. “They weighed three tons”. “In his investigations Kamau talked about a single container of little more than one ton”. “Here is the explanation of how the two tons disappeared”. Mr Murgor says “the police know where the two tons have gone”.
Then there was an alarming episode on 19 February 2005: the “unexpected” murder of Erastus Chemorei, the police officer in charge of the drug storeroom.
“In the investigation” it says in another document held by the Corriere, “the policemen interviewed gave various conflicting versions”. It is useful to remember, the same note concludes, that Chemorei was killed by policemen from Nairobi.
Western embassies in Nairobi are worried about what is happening. They are liaising to put pressure on the Kenyan government to free the accused Italians and the others. Astonishingly, the Dutch, who should know who the real traffickers are, take no part in the meetings even though the cocaine was seized thanks to information from the Dutch. The number two at the Dutch embassy, Gerard Duijfjes, was unforthcoming when contacted by the Corriere della Sera. “Detectives came here from Amsterdam, but didn’t consult us”, he said.
He then confirmed that Anita, the wife of George Kiragu, the Kenyan drug trafficker arrested in Amsterdam who rented Rocchi House, used to teach at the Dutch school in Nairobi.
When he was asked if they checked the CVs of teachers before employing them, he said goodbye and rang off.
Dutch co-operation looks essential to the Italians who are being held. “Your government must exercise pressures on The Hague to hand over what they know”, said the Italians’ lawyers, John Khaminwa and James Gekonge Mouko. “They can solve the case in few minutes”.
In the meantime, the Riccis are still in jail.
Massimo A. Alberizzi

follow link www.corriere.it/english/articoli/2006/03_Marzo/28/Malindi.shtml

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