America’s renewed push against local drug lords has turned the spotlight on prominent Kenyans previously accused of links to the narcotics trade.
A week after the Akasha brothers were arrested and flown to New York, drug investigators were reported to be looking afresh at the files of Kenyan big names cited in an American Embassy report made public six years ago. The report, which was handed to the then Internal security minister George Saitoti, not only triggered high-level investigations into the Akasha brothers who are now awaiting trial in the US, but also listed well known Kenyans who have since risen to powerful positions. They include Kiambu Governor William Kabogo, Mombasa governor Hassan Joho, Senator Mike Mbuvi Sonko, former Assistant Minister Harun Mwau, former Kamukunji MP Simon Mbugua and Othaya MP Mary Wambui.
All of them were named in Parliament by Prof Saitoti but denied the accusations and have always insisted the report had no basis. Sources told The Standard on Sunday that having wrapped up their investigations into the Akashas, the Drug Enforcement Authority was re-examining the reports on which the then US ambassador, Mr Michael Ranneberger, based his 2010 communication to the Kenya Government. Sources from the European Union who could not be quoted because of the sensitivity of the matter said they were also treating these Kenyans as persons of interest in the global war against drug trafficking. At the same time, no less a person than President Uhuru Kenyatta declared end of the road for big drug dealers following the Akasha’s transatlantic flight to justice, hinting at more arrests. “Their days are over. We are not dealing with peddlers, we will deal with the big fish. We will deal with the drug barons decisively,” Uhuru said early last week. Flown out Two Akasha brothers – Baktash and Ibrahim – together with their Pakistan-based associate Gulam Hussein and Vijaygiri Goswami, an Indian resident in Kenya, were flown to New York to stand trial for the production and distribution of heroin and methamphetamine across Africa. They were arrested after an elaborate investigation by the Drug Enforcement Agency, and a sting operation in which Baktash introduced his accomplices to undercover agents while Ibrahim delivered heroin to them on behalf of what came to be known as the Akasha Organisation. When he was named in Ranneberger’s dossier in 2010, Mwau was an Assistant minister in the Kibaki Government, Sonko was Makadara MP, Kabogo was representative for Juja and Joho for Kisauni, Mombasa. Mary Wambui, now Othaya MP, was an activist for the ruling party Narc and was often associated with President Mwai Kibaki. Like them, the Akashas have been on a US watch list over suspected connections with the global narcotics trade. If investigators turn their attention on Joho and Kabogo together with others in the Saitoti list, it would touch off political shock waves because of their key positions in the rival Cord and Jubilee parties.
If convicted Joho is Raila Odinga’s pointman in the Coast region and is influential in the party because of his wealth and political clout. Although his relations with President Kenyatta are lukewarm, Kabogo is one of the Jubilee heavyweights in Central Kenya, by force of his personality and wealth, and being governor of the President’s home county. Most of the people named in the report were subsequently investigated by a Kenyan Police and cleared for lack of evidence. They also protested the inclusion in the list, declared their innocence and accused the US government of mounting a witch-hunt. Mwau, Kabogo, Joho, Sonko, businessman Ali Punjani, Joho’s brother Abubakar and Mbugua were later interviewed by a special police probe chaired by Deputy Commissioner of Police at the time Alfred Ombaba. The police’s interim report dated February 1st, 2011 was later tabled in Parliament.
In the police report, Mwau is said to have addressed all issues raised in the Ranneberger dossier, a copy of which he had in his possession at the time of the interview with the police. He denied drug trafficking claims and association with people mentioned in the dossier, including the Akashas. Dossier claims that his daughter was married to Kabogo were disapproved by the police report: “He has no daughter and therefore cannot possibly be father-in-law to William Kabogo. He has also never employed Kabogo as his driver.” Kabogo told police that the Ranneberger dossier was posted to him at parliament’s reception. The contents of the report damaged his character and were not true. “No evidence has so far been adduced connecting him to drug trafficking,” police report said.