Opinion

Inept or corrupt? Kenya falters on fraud cases

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As Uganda prepared to send South Sudanese Lawrence Malong Yor Junior behind bars for defrauding a South African businessman Sh106 million in a gold scam, Kenyan Kevin Obia, who was a week earlier found guilty of the same crime, was criticising the Judiciary.

After a lengthy six year trial that at some point seemed like it was collapsing, the Kenyan legal system had its chance two weeks ago to imprison the first person to have ever been found guilty of engaging in the fake gold trade.

Mr Obia had been accused of defrauding Austrian Christian Gallati of Sh13.7 million while pretending to be in a position to sell him 7kg of gold in 2015. 

For this crime, Mr Obia, a serial gold fraudster with as number of cases in court, magistrate Francis Andayi handed him a one year sentence with an option of paying a Sh300,000 fine. A few hours after this sentence, Mr Obia was in a night club surrounded by women and partying hard while posting videos on Instagram.

“Why are you all mad though,” he said in one of his posts as some of his 30,000 followers questioned why he was not in jail. 

“Happy birthday to the enigma. Another year to make them even more mad,” he said in another post.

Section 313 of the Penal Code states: “Any person who by any false pretence, and with intent to defraud, obtains from any other person anything capable of being stolen, or induces any other person to deliver to any person anything capable of being stolen, is guilty of a misdemeanour and is liable to imprisonment for three years.”

Although some may argue that Mr Obia got away with a slap on the wrist for engaging in a crime that has turned Kenya into a hub of transnational crime, Mr Andayi had another shocker while reading his judgment.

Mr Obia’s co-accused, Jared Otieno, was apparently never arrested or presented in court during the whole trial. In fact, the magistrate wondered why the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) was reluctant to arrest Mr Otieno, despite overwhelming evidence pointing to him as one of the masterminds of the scheme. The magistrate noted that it is Mr Otieno who received the money that Mr Obia was in court for.

“I wonder why the police, especially the investigating officer, has never arrested Jared Otieno…,” said the magistrate. “One wonders whether this is as a result of conspiracy to defeat justice.”

But even after the stinging remarks by the magistrate, the DCI and the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) have not made an attempt to arrest Mr Otieno. The Sunday Nation could not get DCI George Kinoti to comment on the matter.

This failure by the police to arrest Mr Otieno for a whole six years has exposed the lack of seriousness by Kenya’s criminal justice system in dealing with transnational crime syndicates.

“It is evident that some people have mastered the art of manipulating the criminal justice system because judges only adjudicate in matters brought before them,” says lawyer Charles Mwalimu.

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During the trial of Mr Malong, who was this week sentenced to six years for engaging in the fake gold trade, the court was told that a significant chunk of the socialite’s crimes were committed in Nairobi.

Translational crimes

Like in Mr Obia’s case, Mr Malong’s Kenyan associate who was named in court papers as Mr Owino, who claimed to be a senior manager at the Kenya Revenue Authority, is still walking free. Mr Owino was mentioned in Uganda as having directly received $450,000 (Sh45 million) from Dessie Wegnew, the South African complainant.

“Malong told us that the chief KRA officer was his brother,” Mr Wegnew told the court in Kampala.

Why Kenya does not want to look for this Mr Owino and prosecute him while Uganda has already done its part and imprisoned Mr Malong is yet to be known. 

Such cases of Kenyans involved in translational crimes involving big money but are never arrested are surging. In fact the public gets to know of these crimes when other countries, like in the Malong case, take actions against the criminals. 

Last month when news came that Nigerian fraudster Ramon Hushpuppi had pleaded guilty in a United States court for conning a Qatari businessman over a billion shillings, a Kenyan man and a Nairobi law firm were mentioned as having played a part in the scam.

This scam began in Nairobi through Mr Abdulrahman Imraan Juma alias Abdul, who incorporated Okatch and Partners Advocates, which according to indictment papers in the US, received more than half a million dollars on behalf of Abdul.

But while Hushpuppi is cooling his heels in a US prison, Mr Abdul and the owners of Okatch and Partners Advocates are still free.

Still within last month Rwanda announced that it had jailed eight Kenyans for hacking Equity Bank in 2019. Dedan Muchoki Muriuki, Samuel Wachira Nyuguto, Kinyua Erickson Macharia, Godfrey Gachiri Githinji, Eric Dickson Njagi Mutegi, Reuben Kirogothi Mwangi, Damaris Njeri Kamau and Steve Maina Wambugu will spend eight years in prison. Interestingly all of them are well known within Kenya’s criminal and legal circles as they have been arrested severally for hacking into banks and released on bond as their cases continued. 

The US for has in recent years extradited a number of Kenyans to face the law on its own soil some of whom as Mr Mwalimu says have mastered their way around Kenya’s justice system. The extradition of the Akasha brothers in 2017, for example, embarrassed Kenya so badly that President Uhuru Kenyatta blamed the Judiciary for the fiasco.

“They had corrupted law enforcement agencies, our prosecutors, national administrators and also judges and magistrates,” said the President.

Ibrahim and Baktash will remain in jail in the US for the next two decades. BY DAILY NATION


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