Twice in two weeks, wanted Mombasa tycoon Ali Badruddin Punjani has postponed his return to Kenya from India where he is alleged to be recovering from heart surgery.
Last Thursday, his lawyer, Jared Magolo, made an extraordinary application in court, seeking anticipatory bail to prevent his arrest.
“On August 25, police are quoted to have threatened to arrest my client. We fear he can be arrested on arrival,” said Magolo, adding that Punjani is ready to cooperate with police in their investigations.
Justice Amin Farah however declined to grant the anticipatory bail, ruling that the application will be determined by another judge after listening to the response by the state.
This setback occasioned by failure to get the anticipatory orders has frustrated Punjani’s camp, which has filed separate applications in court for a return of documents, files, monies and jewellery allegedly impounded by police during the raid on the tycoon’s Mombasa Nyali home late last month.
There are fears that the state is intending to to file fresh applications to freeze Punjani’s bank accounts, amid claims that his former friends in political, business and social circles have shunned him following damaging claims by Indian drug lord and convicted felon Vijayghiri Goswami.
In the course of the trial of the Akashas, Goswami depicted Punjani and Jubilee politician Stanley Livondo as controlling a drug network that rivalled the Akashas’.
Punjani shot to limelight in September 2009 during a fundraiser at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC) presided by former President Mwai Kibaki and Opposition leader Raila Odinga, when he contributed Sh6 million in cash for victims of the Faza Island fire tragedy.
He is said to be close to senior politicians across the political divide, with reports that the real estate and hospitality entrepreneur and sugar importer bankrolled several politicians from the Coast, Western and Rift Valley in the 2007, 2013 and 2017 elections.
Punjani has close ties to a Cabinet Secretary in the current administration, a serving PS, a high commissioner to an African country and several MPs.
His lawyer says Punjani will “come back next week because he has recovered,” but his return “will depend on the application which we have made in court to stop his arrest.”
This has heightened confusion about Punjani’s real intentions, date of return and how he will enter Kenya.
Yesterday, a top detective told Saturday Standard “dozens of politicians, judicial officers and business associates are scared stiff of Punjani’s return in case he is interrogated or makes a deal with the state to spill the beans.”
According to the detective, Punjani “has nothing to lose because he is ailing, feels betrayed and his wealth is also dwindling”.
Magolo has accused the press of “falsely branding his client as a tycoon” because ‘’the bank accounts of the cheque books the police seized have no money.”
Sources indicate that although Punjani is still wealthy and holds prime properties, his health and a nasty divorce settlement took a heavy toll on his net worth and assets. In 2017, Punjani divorced Indian actress Kim Sharma around the same time he sold Nyali International Beach Hotel.
In 2015, the state revoked title deeds for land in Lamu believed to belong to Punjani’s associates.
During his high-flying years, CSs, journalists, politicians and top police officers would line up at his Shimanzi office for favours.
At the time, Punjani also held sway at the Mombasa port.
On December 31, 2016, according to police records, Punjani fought with Baktash and Ibrahim in a club where guns were fired. When Punjani walked into the club, the Akashas and Goswami were having drinks with a PS and an MP before the fight broke out.
Punjani, the PS and MP fled to another club that same night where they were joined by the diplomat. The Akashas also went to the club where they found the state officials trying to calm Punjani down.
The next day, the PS tried to broker a truce between Punjani and the Akasha brothers.
According to a foreign detective assisting Kenyan investigators in the Akasha affair, the PS received money from Goswami, the Akashas and another narcotics suspect in early January 2017 for protection and to stall a police investigation into the December 31, 2016 gun violence involving Punjani, the Akashas and Goswami.
The PS received Sh3 million on January 1, 2017 from the Akashas and Goswami in order to stifle investigations into the fight. Witnesses to the bribery at an exclusive nightclub in Nyali included the MP, the diplomat and a member of the presidency.
After negotiations in the club, the PS walked away and the Akashas ushered in the PS’s bodyguard who carried the money in a black briefcase to him in a waiting car outside, complete with the code for the combination lock.
The same PS later received wads of 27,000 in US dollars (about Sh2.7 million) from an agent of the Akashas for protection and as inducement to stop the affray investigations.