A request to the Nation by flashy politician Zaheer Jhanda in February about a consignment of gold detained at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) has turned out to be part of a complex fraud scheme where a Saudi royal was conned of Sh250 million that is now under investigation.
This is after the United Arab Emirates (UAE) wrote a protest letter asking for the release of gold owed to Mr Ali Zandi who has connections to the Saudi Royal family, prompting a swift reaction by the Directorate of Criminal Investigations that saw a consignment of fake gold being seized Monday in Nairobi.
During Monday's raid in Kileleshwa, officers carried away large black boxes said to contain the fake gold. Eight cars, including a Subaru, Mercedes Benz and a Toyota Land Cruiser Prado, which were parked near the house located in Kaputei Gardens, were towed to Kilimani Police Station.
The raid, which was led by a team of senior detectives from the DCI headquarters and Kilimani Divisional Criminal Investigation Office, also saw 15 people arrested. The suspects included three women and 12 men.
Two Russian and Bulgarian nationals are already in police custody in connection with the fraud. Mr Mohammed Akbar Rashi (Russian) and Mr Yulian Pentrov Stankov (Bulgarian) were arrested last Thursday at the Lavington Mall.
In a request to the court on Friday, investigating officer Stanley Musembi said mobile phones belonging to the two needed to be taken for forensic analysis.
"Several exhibits namely mobile phones and profoma invoiced for Africargo Limited were recovered," said the investigating officer.
Investigators believe they have on their hands a complex fraud whose intricacy has shocked them so much that the DCI was forced to issue a warning to foreigners intending to buy gold in Kenya.
It is said the fraudsters were so bold that at some point one of them masqueraded as a Cabinet Secretary to get more legitimacy.
On Friday, the DCI said the trade in fake gold has now reached worrying levels. "The gold scam has now reached alarming levels as unsuspecting foreign nationals are being swindled large amounts of money by the fraudsters," said the DCI. "We urge the embassies to advise their nationals coming in for business to be apprised of the con gold business going on in the country and first contact the Departments of Mines and Geology for the procedure as pertains to buying and selling of gold and other precious metals," said the DCI.
The warning bells of the fraud in which the Saudi royal was conned, however, began three months ago when Mr Jhanda told the Nation he had gold worth Sh5 billion detained at the JKIA, saying the consignment was supposed to be sent to his client.
We did not publish the story after verifying his claims. As it has turned out three months later, doing so would have given Mr Jhanda and his accomplices, including a senator from western Kenya, the legitimacy they needed to carry out the fraud.
According to Mr Jhanda at that time, he was the local representative of a Mr Ali Zandi of ZLivia, a gold trading company in the UAE, which had been listed in shipping documents showed to us. "UN agency officials stopped the cargo from being transported to Dubai," he said in a string of messages.
His tranche of 'evidence' involved a shipper known as Rosta Victor and the airway bill was 1903022625. One of the invoices addressed to a Mr Zandi showed that the firm was to part with Sh61.8 million, a bulk of which was for the delayed flight rotations after the plane was not cleared to fly.
As it has turned out, Mr Zandi did not get his gold shipment but he parted with money. He now wants his gold shipped to the UAE or to be refunded his money. But according to police investigations so far, the con game began early last year with a story on the blogs that 4.6 tonnes of gold on transit from Congo had been seized in Kenya.
It is believed that was when the fraudsters made contact with Zlivia and they needed a story to back their claims. After a year of trying to entice him, Mr Zandi eventually came to the country in January this year where he was taken to a warehouse and introduced to a well-known gold swindler who has a case in court over firearm misuse.
He was then taken to another warehouse at the JKIA where he was introduced to Mr Victor Rosta, who was supposed to ship the consignment to the UAE. Mr Rosta, who claimed to work for the United Nations, then informed Mr Zandi that the consignment cannot leave the JKIA since it is not on a local flight.
They demanded $750,000 in order to release the consignment and proposed the gold to be transported by a local airline. It is at this point that Mr Jhanda contacted the Nation on the 'gold' detained at JKIA that belonged to Mr Zandi. Mr Zhanda was not available on phone Monday.
Even after proposing to lease another plane from a company based at Wilson Airport, Mr Zandi did not give in. That is how the senator was roped in to convince the Saudi businessman that he would use his connections to get the gold released.
"If the commitment is not fulfilled you agree to reimburse all of ZLivia's costs and expenses incurred in the purchase and exportation from Kenya and importation to Dubai," reads an agreement between the senator and Zlivia signed on February 19 this year.