The cash ransom paid for kidnapped tourist Judith Tebbutt on Wednesday was air dropped by a former British military officer who owns a Nairobi based security firm specializing in ransom delivery to pirates. Around Sh104 million in foreign currency was airlifted from Nairobi through Wilson airport on Wednesday morning by staff of Salama Fikira security company and dropped at at Addado where Tebbutt was collected.
Around UK£691,000 (Sh88 million) was given to the pirates while US$129,000 (Sh10.7 million) was paid to middlemen who had been negotiating with the pirates for the 56 year old British woman's release. Tebbutt was flown back to Nairobi's Wilson airport. She was driven by British High Commission officials to an unknown location, where she was debriefed and treated before being flown back to UK on Wednesday night.
Tebbutt was airlifted from Addado airport in a Beech Super King Air 200BB 1127 aircraft registration number 5Y-JJZ. The aircraft is owned by Cerere AG of Prasidial Anstalt Auelestresse 38FL 9490 Vaduz Liechtenstein. The aircraft was registered in Kenya on July 31 1996 and is leased by La Pieve Ltd of Po Box 209 Naivasha, Kenya.
La Pieve owns a hotel along Kongoni Moi South Lake road in Naivasha frequented by British residents since colonial days. Salama Fikira has offices at the Nairobi Business Park off Ngong Road next to the Jockey Club. It is run by Conrad Thorpe, a Kenyan-born former British Royal Marine, and Rob Andrew, a former British Special Air Service officer.
Rob Phayre, the general manager, served in the British Army for seven years as a helicopter pilot. Andrew served for three years as UK's Regional Counter-Terrorism adviser and manages Britain's peace-building capacity programmes in Kenya, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan, Rwanda, Tanzania and the Indian Ocean islands.
The company offers crisis and emergency project management for international shipping companies, risk audit, advice and mitigation for corporate clients. It also offers clients expertise in resource exploration, security management, protection services for visitors, and reconciliation and disarmament workshops. It has operations in Kenya, Uganda, Somalia, Tanzania, Burundi, Congo, Sudan and Ethiopia.
According to intelligence reports, the company controls two Mombasa-based shipping firms and three Kenyan airlines. They are allegedly used to deliver ransom, fuel, and to restock hijacked and released ships. The contact numbers on the Salama Fikira website could not be reached yesterday. In August last year a senior officer confirmed to the Star that the Kenya Police were monitoring the operations of Salama Fikira as it was delivering ransom to pirates.
Six Salama Fikira employees and pilots including an American, two Britons and two Kenyans were arrested on May 24, 2011 by Somalia Transnational Federal Government officials at Aden Adde international airport in Mogadishu with duffel bags containing $3.6 million (Sh299 million) after flying from Wilson airport to deliver 'humanitarian aid' in two aircraft.
The Cessna Citation jet and Cessna Caravan are reported to have transited through Mogadishu airport four previous times on unspecified missions. The arrested Britons were identified as Andrew Oaks and Alex James while pilot Mathew Brown was also among those arrested. The money was allegedly payment of ransom for two pirate-held ships, the MV Suez and MV Yuan Xiang, but it was seized by the Somalia government and deposited in the Central Bank of Somalia. The six men and two aircraft were later released.
Salama Fikira claims to have access to AC 130 Hercules aircraft, up to five Boeing 737s, four Cessna Citation Bravo jets, four Beechcraft King Airs, three Cessna Caravans and a Eurocopter to assist its operations. It claims to have offered services to embassies in Kenya, a gas exploration company near the Kenya-Somalia border, as well as close protection and escort work for high value tourists and commercial visitors in the region including Somalia.