Kenya: How Matatu Business is Being Used to Clean Up Drugs Cash

22 October 2019

The matatu business has become instrumental in not only easing transportation, but also creating jobs.

Some world renowned celebrities, while on a visit to Kenya, have expressed amazement at Kenyans' creativity in branding matatus.

DRUG TRAFFICKING

However, recent police investigations have established that the industry is being tainted by drug dealers keen on concealing their ill-gotten wealth.

Recent investigations by police attached to the Asset Recovery Agency (ARA) have led to the arrest of Mrs Rose Musanda Monyani whose vast investment in the matatu sector has been linked to drug trafficking.

Mrs Monyani was charged at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport court on June 17 with trafficking narcotics.

Investigators had established that she had deployed part of the proceeds of the illegal trade to various businesses, including running matatus. They traced five buses to her.

"Mrs Monyani has not been able to give reasonable explanation to prove any legitimate source of the same. Our investigations have established that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the assets and funds in issue are proceeds of crime obtained through an illegitimate trade in narcotic drug substances," police said in court papers.

A High Court order directed Mrs Monyani to hand over logbooks of her five buses and a saloon car to the DCI.

Officers searched her home in Kinoo, Kiambu County, and recovered Sh25 million and an unknown substance, which was sent to the Government Chemist for sampling, weighting, valuation and analysis. The substance was found to contain heroin at 40 per cent purity.

Investigations further established that Mrs Monyani had acquired a number of assets using proceeds from the illicit trade and registered them under her name and proxies so as to conceal the source of the funds.

PROCEEDS OF CRIME

There is an international obligation for every country to combat illegitimate trade in drugs and laundering of proceeds of crime.

In an effort to adhere to this obligation, state actors in the justice system have strived to wage a war against drug trafficking.

In March, for instance, Attorney-General Paul Kihara during a tour of Lamu, Hindi and Mpeketoni towns in the company of Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Noordin Haji urged residents to reveal drug dealers.

"You have the police and administration departments here with you. Kindly co-operate with them and if they are the ones collaborating with the peddlers, inform us so that we can have them replaced by others who can work to end the vice," Justice Kihara said.

Since drug peddlers use mules (third parties) to conduct their illegitimate business, they rarely get caught.

Instead drug users often face the full force of the law and are imprisoned for years.

In appreciating this fact, Chief Justice David Maraga had earlier in the year directed that judges and magistrates in Lamu County ensure that prosecuted drug users are sent to rehabilitation centres and not prisons.

He said the Judiciary should stop regarding drug users as criminals and instead treat them like patients who need urgent medical attention to recover from the menace.

DRUG MENACE

Established drug peddlers will not, however, receive the same treatment. They will be treated as the criminals that they are.

He spoke during the launch of the Lamu Rehabilitation Centre.

The National Agency for the Campaign Against Drug Abuse (Nacada) paints a grim picture of the drug menace, that more than five million Kenyans are addicted to drugs.

The office of the DPP has also introduced alternatives to trial, which include plea bargaining and diversion.

According to Deputy DPP Dorcas Oduor, drug users will only be required to accept that they have done something wrong then allowed to plead guilty for a lesser offence and can then be diverted to a rehabilitation centre.

Still pending before court is an application where police finally managed to pin down Joseph Wanjohi and his wife, Jane Wambui Wanjiru, after 14-year investigations on their involvement in drug trafficking.

In the matter, ARA is also seeking to recover what it terms proceeds of crime.

It's emerging that drug traffickers have networks in more than one country and use close relatives and proxies to trade.

ILLEGAL TRADE

The mules acquire, convey, sell and distribute the drugs for and on behalf of barons within and outside Kenya. The drug barons then acquire massive assets and register them under their names and companies to disguise the source of the funds.

The couple was arrested on October 16, 2009 at their Muthaiga home while in possession of 1,274 grammes of heroin and were subsequently charged with trafficking in narcotics.

Elizabeth Njoki Wanjiru, and Kinyanjui Joseph, who are brother and sister to Jane, worked on behalf of the couple as mules. Meanwhile, Joseph and Jane also had a distributor and conveyor of narcotics, Nassoro Salim Said, who is Tanzanian.

Elizabeth and Nassoro were arrested at Mlolongo on the outskirts of Nairobi on September 2, 2016 while in possession of 3,921 grammes of heroin valued at Sh11,764,800. They were subsequently charged in court.

Kinyanjui was arrested on September 4, 2017 while in possession of 238 grammes of heroin valued of Sh714,600 and charged. He was later sentenced to 20 years imprisonment with a fine of Sh1 million.

"Our investigations further established that benefits derived from this illegal trade in narcotics drugs and wildlife trophies were subsequently delivered to Joseph and Jane by way of physical cash and deposits into their bank accounts by their agents, associates and conduit entities so as to conceal, hide and disguise the source of the funds," police said in court papers.

In a scheme to disrupt investigations, Joseph and Jane registered two companies, Sidjoe Manufacturers and Suppliers, and Marudiono Zone Ltd.

Under the law, ARA is authorised to institute civil forfeiture proceedings against suspects if their case is proved. Government repossesses all assets acquired through proceeds of crime.

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