The Star (Nairobi)

17 May 2014

Kenya: Businessman Runs Mad in Helicopter

Narok — More information has emerged about the events before he was charged in Narok court on May 6, Devani appeared before Narok Resident Magistrate Zainabu Abdul charged with maliciously damaging two wind screens, cargo compartments, right gear box cases of a helicopter and causing damage of Sh15 million. He faced another count of jeopardizing the safety of the aircraft and forcing it to crash land in the Maasai Mara.

He was released on the surety of his advocate Lucas Kigen. The case will be mentioned on May 19 and the hearing will be June 23.

On the morning of Saturday May 3, a local charter company collected Devani from his residence in Westlands in the company of two American girls aged around 19 years.

They were flown to Tipilikwani camp in the Maasai Mara without incident in the Eurocopter AS350.

At 10am on Sunday morning, he told the pilot that he would like to go for "an aerial game flight" along the Talek river and they flew for about 23 minutes.

After the helicopter became airborne, Devani became agitated "stating that his children had been kidnapped and were in the back of the aircraft. He embarked on tearing the back seats from the Velcro," according to a witness.

The pilot then asked the Tipilkwani camp manager, a Mr Thuo, to restrain him while he made an emergency landing.

"The passenger complained of his child being kidnapped and locked in the boot of the helicopter," according to an incident report about "an unruly passenger" made to the Ministry of Transport on May 9.

"After landing, Devani went haywire. He forced the pilot to open the cargo door so that he could check if the children were inside. He said he was armed and would shoot the pilot if he did not cooperate," said a witness.

The pilot tried to calm him down but "he got even more hyper".

"The captain opened all the access doors and Devani grabbed a metal bar used for tie-downs that secure the rotor blades when the helicopter is parked," said the witness.

"He twice tried to hit the pilot with the metal bar but the pilot managed to escape with Thuo and ran away to the camp. Thuo called the local police who came to arrest him," he said.

"When the police arrived, Devani had removed all his clothes and was wearing only underpants. He was arrested on sight and detained," said the witness.

After Devani failed to find his child in the cargo hold, he smashed up the windscreen, canopy , fuselage and doors of the helicopter with the metal bar.

"We noted that he was somehow out of his senses," stated the Transport ministry incident report.

The American girls arrived back from their morning game drive just as the helicopter landed.

"An argument ensued and the ladies left the place towards the camp," said the witness. The frightened girls hired a camp car and rushed back to Nairobi.

While Devani was detained in Narok police station for two nights, two men arrived, claiming to be from State House. However State House in Nairobi denied any knowledge of Devani and he was charged in the Narok court the next day.

Devani had also his wallet, cigarettes, and sunglasses in the helicopter.

"There were some drugs in his wallet including some capsules. The police have sent them to the Government Chemist to determine whether they are narcotics or legal medicine," said a witness.

The helicopter was patched up a few days later and flown slowly back to Nairobi. It is now grounded awaiting spare parts from France that will take at least a month to arrive.

To make matters worse for the charter company, Devani bounced his cheque of Sh234,435 for hire of the helicopter. Devani's accountants have told the charter company that they will advise when the cheque can be rebanked.

Devani is a director of Jade Petroleum that sells fuel to Rwanda and Congo. He also supplies electrical transformers to government bodies.

Devani has had a bad year. In January he was arrested by police for allegedly shooting the padlock of a five-storey building in Westlands.

He had formerly owned Shimmers Plaza but it was auctioned by the National Bank of Kenya over a Sh150 million debt.

In January he was also involved in a fracas with a politician on an Emirates flight from Dubai to Nairobi.

In 2012 he was involved in legal proceedings trying to deport his Russian wife Adina from Kenya.

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