A prominent coast politician and a Mombasa-based businessman together with their associates are at the crosshairs of an international investigation to unravel the mystery of the Sh 23 billion drug haul seized by the Australian Navy in the high seas three weeks ago.
Detectives from the US Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) are convinced that the about 1,032 kilogrammes of heroin found hidden among cement bags was destined for Kenya. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has on several occasions cited Kenya as a transit point for re-packaging and trans-shipment of drugs to Europe and America.
Sources privy to the investigations have told The People Saturday that the drug haul was part of about four tonnes of heroin that had been offloaded into three dhows in the high seas. Investigators are pursuing clues that two of the boats were destined for Malindi and the third one to Zanzibar. The two Kenyans under investigation are believed to have been behind the drug cargo destined for Malindi while a Tanzanian businessman is suspected to be behind the haul destined for Zanzibar.
Malindi is a notorious haven for local and international drug traffickers and money launderers. It is here that Sh6.4 billion worth of cocaine was captured in 2004 en route to Europe from Colombia and Venezuela. Sources say the two boats had managed to deliver their cargo to the respective destinations a day before the last vessel, MSV Laxminarayan, was seized by the Australian Navy while sailing towards Malindi.
The seized drugs were later destroyed by the Australian Navy and the boat allowed to continue with it’s journey. MSV Laxminarayan secretly docked at the old port of Mombasa on April 26, from where nine of it crew members sneaked out of the country with the help of corrupt local immigration officials and some rogue policemen. The boat is still being held by Kenya police at the Old Port.
The other dhows with the drug haulage concealed in cement bags allegedly managed to offload the drugs in Malindi and Zanzibar. Local and foreign security agencies suspect the heroine consignment could have originated from the coast of Pakistan. MSV Laxminarayan, now in custody of Kenyan police, is registered in India. According to The Times of India, the boat belongs to an India-based shipping company, and is owned by Ashok Parmar. Parmar told the police he had chartered the boat in October last year, and that it was to ferry livestock destined from the East African coast to Asia.
The boat was seized by the Australian Navy sailors on routine patrol off the coast of Africa. It’s crew managed to escape out of the country but the captain was left behind because he had no travel documents. The Australian Navy ship’s commander, Terry Morriso, said they discovered 46 sacks of heroin hidden among bags of cement. He said the seizure was made as part of an international operation against drug trafficking in the Indian Ocean.
International investigators have established that proceeds from narcotic trade are used to finance global terrorist networks. International waters The Kenya Anti-Narcotic Police Unit is closely working with the FBI and other foreign detectives to get to the bottom of the matter. Australian authorities have clarified that the vessel carrying the drugs was seized in the international waters. However, reports that one of the three boats had managed to offload drugs in Malindi is still a puzzle.
A security source who spoke to The People Saturday told us in confidence: “We have all the reasons to believe that the drugs were destined here because the vessel eventually came to Kenya after being released by the Australian Navy”. To add to the mystery, the Kenya Ports Authority has denied that it cleared the boat to dock at the Mombasa Old port. The Authority’s chairman, Danson Mungatana, said KPA was not aware that the vessel had secretly been allowed to dock.
He said they could not have cleared a vessel linked to drug trafficking. “Of course, we did not clear the boat to dock at any port. There is no boat or ship that docks in our ports without authority,” said he. However, according to Mombasa County Police Commander, Robert Kitur, police were not aware of the arrival of the boat at the Old Port because it was supposed to have docked at Kilindini. Both the new port at Kilindini and the Old Port are operated by KPA.
Police say the vessel sent a distress signal to the regional Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC), looking for help as the boat was leaking. Said a police source: “They made a distress call and were allowed to dock at Kilindini. The fact that they ended up at the Old Port caught us by surprise.” However, the Kenya Maritime Authority (KMA) has denied ever receiving a distress call from such a vessel.
The authority’s director general, Nancy Karigithu, said the boat had not sought any assistance from KMA. “Claims that this boat called us are not true because we do not have any record of such and we do not know how it docked at the Old Port,” she said. Another compounding tale is the mystery of how the nine-member crew of the captured boat managed to sneak out of the country through Mombasa’s Moi International Airport.
The heroin haul has been termed the biggest seizure in African history. The drug menace in Kenya has been blamed on the cancer of corruption which allows villains to operate in the country with total impunity. Continued use of Kenya as a corridor for drugs on transit is one of the reasons that informed the setting up of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in Nairobi.