12 December 2013

Liberia Arrests Put Kenya Airline in Trafficking Spotlight Again

Monrovia — Two drug arrests at the Roberts International Airport in November appear to be resurrecting some bad memories for Kenya Airways, the East African Airlines which trumpets itself as "The Pride of Africa".

In 2002, the airline, looking to clean up its image, sacked 32 cabin crew over drug trafficking allegations.

The two arrest in Liberia involved a Nigerian and a Ugandan businesswoman.

Uzochukwu Francis Madunagu, was intercepted on December 9, 2013 with 8.5 KG of Heroin while Nalvadda Shirat, 24, was intercepted with 2.5KG of Heroin by joint security officers on another Kenyan Airways flight at the RIA on November 30, 2013.

Both were allegedly aided by officials or employees at Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization and the Liberia National Police.

A FrontPageAfrica investigation uncovered that the Nigerian was aided by one David Forkpah, an officer of the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization. Forkpah, according to sources solicited the help of two officers of the Liberian National Police- Sokpah A. Boy Saye and Bockarie Roberts to assist the Nigerian national pass through customs with the heroin. According to a memo detailing the arrest from the RIA commander in possession of FrontPageAfrica, the Ugandan entered the country as a guest of one Erica Kaba of the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization and a resident of ELWA Paynesville.

"Information gathered is that, the former RIA Security Director Mr. Nyehn Suba was on his way to receive Nalvadda Shirat at the airport but made a U-turn when he was informed that the girl had been intercepted. The 24-year-old Ugandan was escorted to the NSA head office in Monrovia along with the drugs based upon instruction from the NSA Director.

Kenya Airways has in the past taken drastic steps to curb a wave of incidents involving allegations of drug trafficking on its airlines, sacking 32 cabin crew over drug trafficking allegations. The airline had been struggling to fight off allegations that its cabin crewmembers were dealing in the illicit trade. At the time it was reported that some 82 cabin crew were known traffickers. The sacking in 2002 came in the aftermath of the arrest of one of the airline's crewmembers who was nabbed by an anti-narcotics police unit at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport while trying to smuggle into the country a 27 kilogramme heroin haul from Asia.

Priscilla Kolongei was charged before a Nairobi court with trafficking in the drug worth about Kshs 28 million (360,000 US dollars).

Kenya Airways issued a statement following the incident, saying it was taking the matter seriously and that action would be taken against any of its employees involved in drug trafficking.

At the time of the2002 incident, Kenya airline workers reported that they had filed multiple complaints to management about known traffickers and drug barons, who intimidated cabin crew members into carrying drugs, but those complaints fell on deaf ears.

The BBC reported at the time that Kenya Airways acknowledged concerns about its employees being used to ferry drugs and will work closely with other stakeholders to eradicate the menace and that Kenya was identified as a major transit point for drugs from Asia to European countries. Corruption at Kenya's air and seaports has also been blamed for the increased trafficking. Airport police and immigration officers were accused of colluding with the drug dealers to ensure drugs pass through customs undetected.

In 2002 a Kenyan woman identified as Setteena Idris Abdalla was jailed for 20 years by a Mauritius court for trafficking in 1 kg of heroin. Another Kenyan was charged in a Thai court with possession of 1.5 kg of cocaine.

In another incident, Christopher Lake, 26, was arrested in a raid by police in a Bangkok apartment in September 2002, had sneaked in the drugs from the Netherlands. Detectives recovered drugs, mobile phones and a list of customers. That same year, seven Kenya Airways employees were among those held abroad on drug charges. While some served terms in prison, others died in foreign jails. Larry Ogwel, 30 died in a Mumbai jail in India while serving a 10-year sentence for trafficking in heroin.

Mr Ogwel had worked for Kenya Airways for about six years and was scheduled to wed two weeks before he was arrested. He died less than a year after he was sentenced.

Emily Barasa, a Kenya Airways in-flight supervisor, was arrested in 2001 at London's Heathrow Airport. She had just disembarked from flight KQ 102 in July 2001 when she was intercepted by British anti-narcotics officers who detected the drugs in her luggage. She has since served her jail term and returned home.

In 2003, two Kenyan businesswomen, Dorothy Manju Nzioki and her sister, Susan Kaluki Nzioki, who were wanted by US authorities on drug trafficking charges, were handed over to Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) detective Kevin Blair to face charges in the United States. They were charged with smuggling heroin into the United States. A Kenyan woman serving a jail term in Langata Women's prison reportedly travelled to the United States to testify against them. Another Kenyan was arrested in London in 2005 with 5 kg of cocaine after disembarking from flight KQ 101. He was charged in court.

In 2005, another incident involved Allan Choge, a son of the family of a prominent politician, was arrested at Heathrow airport in April 2005 on KQ flight 101. He was accused of using his airline staff status to sneak in the 5 kg of high grade cocaine stashed in a travelling bag. But he was released two weeks later for lack of evidence and returned to Kenya. In August 2005 another KQ in-flight attendant, Nancy Waiguru, was arrested at Heathrow as she attempted to sneak in five kg of cocaine. Sniffer dogs picked out her travelling bag in which the drugs were discovered after the crew disembarked from the plane. She is now serving a five-year jail term in Britain.

Two months after Ms Waiguru's arrest in London another KQ in-flight attendant was intercepted in Amsterdam with five kg of high grade cocaine. Waguru joined George Kiragu who was arrested in Amsterdam in December 2004 in connection with a seizure of 295 kg of cocaine by Dutch authorities.

The son of former Kirinyaga South MP Stephen Kiragu was arrested along with five Dutch nationals after Dutch detectives found the cocaine in a godown within Amsterdams Champagneweg 11 Te Zevenbergen area. He was linked to the Sh6.4 billion cocaine haul that was seized by Kenyan authorities around the same time.

Although his younger brother, David Kiragu, had been sentenced and fined Sh18 billion, Kenyan authorities maintain that Stephen Kiragu was the mastermind of the largest cocaine haul ever intercepted by detectives in Africa.

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