We bring you the story of the biggest kleptomaniacs who had a field day in Kenya.They have ranged from brazen liars to the perfect polished con artists.Some even came in the name of God
In 1989 one could easily find opium poppy being grown openly in farms in Nyambari village, Lari Division in Limuru. A foreigner of Asian origin is said to have introduced the seeds to the farmers & promised to buy the ‘flowers’ at a good price. The unsuspecting farmers grew the crop for 10 years before the police discovered the syndicate. History would repeat itself in 2011 when a Holland-based company duped the farmers in Njabini area of Kinangop into growing opium. In both cases the receipt issued only indicated delivery of flowers, not opium.
Opium poppy seeds are harvested for their milky sap used to extract morphine. Morphine undergoes an industrial process to make heroin.However, the seeds are also harvested for making edible oil and medicine. Growing the plant attracts a 20 year jail term or a fine three times the market value of the prohibited plant, whichever is the greater.
The people of the republic of Kenya had for long been duped by con oil exploration companies.The first good news was the discovery in Chalbi desert of Marsabit county when the former President Moi flew on a helicopter and announced a large deposit of oil in 1988 in what is now block 9.”At last, oil in Kenya” screamed a headline in the state newspaper the next day causing a tremor of excitement countrywide and in the impoverished region which had only four kilometers of tarmacked roads by then. But this turned out to be castles in the air.No oil was discovered and its further suspected the American company came with ulterior motives.
There are widespread fears that the company was dumping toxic nuclear wastes under the guise of exploring for oil.A visit to the region reveals that the company excavated deep trenches and later covered them with concrete slabs. Residents who were employed as casuals during the purported excavation revealed that they would be unceremoniously laid off when the depth of trenches reached a certain level. They further said that huge loads from trucks would be off loaded at the sites before they were laid off fueling the speculation that they didn’t want the locals to see the contents.
The desert is now known a the desert of death. The number of cancer victims in the region has been rising for some years ;throat cancer in particular. Suspicion has fallen on the oil exploration wells drilled in the 1980s by oil company Amoco Kenya.Some of the wells do not appear to have been properly sealed and people living in the areas around the wells fear the water table has been contaminated.They are also allegations that they left with some of their tanks full of concealed oil.
While the companies may not have encountered oil, biostratigraphic studies later suggested that the wells they were drilling may not have been penetrated deep to test the Neocomian-Lower Albian sediments which comprise the source reservoir, and seal within sudan rift basins. This maybe explains why oil was to be later discovered in the same Northern region of Kenya.
Lemma Ayanu was a victim of this con just as were millions of Kenyans.Amid his government’s and his own protestations, he was flown into Kenya in May 2003 as the missing Mau Mau leader, General Mathenge.
Top leaders had congregated at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to witness the arrival of Gen Mathenge.Ayanu was accompanied by four of his relatives and for days, former Mau Mau leaders dismissed his credentials.
He could not speak Kikuyu language and only spoke Amharic.
Ethiopian Embassy insisted that Ayanu was an ordinary farmer and wondered why the Kenya government was carrying a DNA test on him.
At the end of the Gen Mathenge episode, the government had spent about Sh1.5 million in accommodation, transport and meals.
The Deya’s Miracle babies
In 2004, Mrs Eddah Odera, 56 and post-menopausal, claimed to have given birth to 13 “miracle babies” between 1999 and 2004 with no contact with a man. The miracle babies turned out to be part of a major human trafficking syndicate involving two clinics in Nairobi, Mrs Mary Juma Deya and her husband Gilbert Deya, who lived in the UK as a “Pastor.”
Mrs Deya and her accomplices were later jailed.
Chameleons for sale in Mukurwe-ini
In early April 2005 some ingenious fellows convinced farmers in Nyeri County that they had a ready market for Chameleons. The suave businessmen were armed with official documents certifying that they were fully licensed to trade in reptiles and other protected wild species. The farmers were urged to go into the coffee, tea and wild bushes and collect chameleons of all types, shapes and sizes with a promise that in late April the brokers would bring some foreigners (mzungus) to buy the reptiles at a price ranging between Ksh. 1200 to 1500 depending on size and colour. On the appointed day, farmers from Mukurwe-ini, Othaya and Tetu Constituencies flocked to Tambaya Market ready to sell their catch at a premium. The farmers had woken up very early so that they could sell their “produce” and return home to tend to their shambas. The usually busy horticultural produce market was literally turned into a reptilian market that day. At 6AM the price of one Chameleon was Sh. 1000, by 12.00PM Sh. 100 and by 6PM a mere Sh. 10; the foreign buyer had not turned up and the cunning brokers were long gone. At 7PM the chameleons were released to their natural habitat and the angry farmers, now counting their losses blocked the Mukurwe-ini –Nyeri and Gakindu-Othaya Roads for hours protesting at the Government for failing to protect them from the tricksters. The incident was widely reported by journalists who found the whole story more entertaining than sad!
They had managed to worm themselves into the Kenya security system and got “appointed” as Deputy Commissioners of Police.
They had VIP passes for JKIA and wined and dined with the powerful.They had a house in Runda where they threw overnight parties, drove diplomatic cars and carried pistols openly.
They were implicated in the raid on the Standard Media Group.
After they went berserk at the airport and assaulted immigration officers, President Kibaki sacked the CID director Joseph Kamau and formed a commission of inquiry.
Also implicated was Winnie Wangui, the daughter of the current Othaya MP, Mary Wambui. Winnie was a girlfriend of one of the crooks.
When police raided their Runda home, they found a cache of guns and ammunition, balaclava helmets and a number of T-shirts branded QRU (Quick Response Unit) which the hooded raiders at The Standard Group offices wore.
Bethuel Mbugua: Genius or charlatan?
He was enrolled in secondary school when he was only seven years old. He had lectured in about 300 universities and secondary schools in East Africa by the age of ten. Thanks to his brainpower, he wined and dined with presidents and ministers all over the world.
By the time he was in Standard Six in 1986, he was rated too bright for his class and taken to Form Four at Ol Kalou Secondary School. But he was kicked out after a month because other students and even local residents started disrupting classes asking him to lecture them.
By 1988, Mbugua had become a familiar face in the newspapers. But it came to a sudden end when it was proposed that he be subjected to an IQ test, which was administered by Dr David Kabithe. According to the findings, the boy was just a good actor who could not tell the difference between Hamburg and a hamburger.
Nothing has conned so many kenyans as the Get-rich-quick pyramid schemes.Back in 2006, George Donde crafted the Development Enterpreneurship and Community Initiative (Deci) & told his victims that he would double their cash.They believed him and they lined up with cash hoping to make a fortune after only three months of investing.The initial “customers” actually got paid, but that only lured them and more others into the trap.
In 2007 hundreds of pyramid schemes collapsed after fleecing innocent Kenyans millions of shillings. Whereas the Central Bank of Kenya had issued repeated warnings on the operations of those schemes, its managers feigned lack of statutory power to protect innocent people from the massive fraud. The fraudsters had scuttled banking law by registering as co-operative societies and thus operated as if they had official sanction. Victims of this fraud have never been compensated even after the government formed a commission of inquiry to investigate the scam.
KDF loot in Westgate
After Soldiers from the Kenyan Defence Force (KDF) were initially praised by the Kenyan public for the operation to end alshabaab siege, they later reacted angrily when CCTV footage was broadcasted showing them looting the mall. A parliamentary committee set up to probe the four-day siege found the KDF “never participated in looting”.They later devised some sort of a cover-up where the chief of general staff claimed they(soldiers) had only taken bottles of water to quench their thirst.However, the cameras never lie.
This was the ‘‘champion’’ reverse driver.It was in 1985, when he convinced the media that he had driven a car in reverse from Mombasa to Nairobi, then to Nakuru, Rongai and back to Nairobi, hoping to break the world record.
Awori had told the press that he practised on “private roads” and was keen on breaking the world record, then held by American Gerald Hoagland.Westlands Motors gave him a new Toyota Corolla to drive, while many other sponsors donated in cash and kind as Awori prepared to become ‘‘the first African motorist to hold a world record’’.
“I took it as a personal challenge. If this American could do it, why not me?” he told the press after “finishing” the gruelling journey.For “achieving” that feat, he was feted at a reception held at the Hilton Hotel, where he received the global award.
He then announced to motor company executives that he planned to set off another world breaking record by reversing a 7-tonne lorry from Nairobi to Mombasa.For that D.T Dobie donated a giant Mercedez-Benz truck which was to be loaded with building materials donated by Mombasa traders for building a new Harambee classroom.DT Dobie also donated fuel worth Sh10,000, while Daily Nation reported that “Mr John Miller, an independent adjudicator for Guinness Book of Records”, had arrived in Nairobi.
Awori said he planned to leave Mombasa on December 11 and arrive at Uhuru Park on December 12 during the Jamhuri Day celebrations. Assistant minister Sharrif Nassir flagged off Awori on the night of December 11, but nobody knows what happened after that.
Telex messages were sent to Kenya News Agency on his progress and final arrival in Nairobi.The last one was from “John Miller” from the Guiness Book of Records “confirming” that Awori had broken another record.
After being celebrated as a Kenyan hero, Awori announced that he was now going to attend the “620-km Kiwi Auto Reverse Rally” in New Zealand’s Newbury Ranch Farm.
The Daily Nation captured the moment he arrived: “A tired-looking Eric Awori and his service crew arrived in Auckland, New Zealand, yesterday morning, where a crowd of about 5,000 enthusiasts of reverse drive were waiting to give him a rousing welcome….
Awori spent about one hour at the airport chatting to the crowd and signing autographs before going to his hotel.Over 3,500 copies of Daily Nation with Awori’s profile found their way to Auckland yesterday and all copies sold out within half an hour of arrival. More copies have been ordered from Nairobi…”
Daily Nation was one of the sponsors who had lined up to support Awori.On February 10, 1986, a telex was sent to the newsrooms confirming that “Awori has re-written motoring history by becoming the first African driver ever to win a contest in a European country.”
The papers reported that he had driven his Kenyan assembled Toyota Corolla, and won after driving in reverse for 31 hours 55 minutes “through some of the most rugged murrum and tarmac roads in Auckland.”
He had been “assisted by two Gikomba Jua Kali mechanics 60-year-old Mzee Peter Kuria and Ali Omar”.But something was not adding up.There were no photos and the New Zealand High Commission in Nairobi said there was no such event.
Summoned by Daily Nation editors to prove he went to New Zealand, Awori failed to table photographs. The CID arrested him later and charged him with fraud. What emerged later was that the truck was actually not driven in reverse from Mombasa.There was nobody from Guinness.Awori did not travel to New Zealand.
All the telex sent came from a Nairobi office on Mama Ngina Street where Awori coordinated his lies.In the few months, he had received air tickets, money, hotel accommodation and gifts worth thousands of shillings.
Mpesa is a Kenyan invention
Kenyans have been duped to believe that the Mpesa invention, or rather innovation is Kenyan. The rumors are that the said kenyan approached Safaricom’s executives with this idea only to be turned away after claiming that it wasn’t possible. No Kenyan, however, has ever come out to claim he invented it. More so a book titled, Money, Real Quick- The story of M-PESA, reveals that a senior Vodafone employee conceived M-Pesa in 2003. Kenyans had close to nothing to do with the creation of M-Pesa that had put the country on the global radar as an innovation hub.
Kenyans can only be accredited for the growth of M-Pesa.
DICK BERG and the All Africa games
In 1987, Kenya hosted the All Africa games that saw the building of Moi Sports Complex, Kasarani.
During the preparations, one Dick Berg, a US citizen, arrived in Nairobi and told ministry officials that his firm, Berg and Associates, could help collect over Sh224 million for the Nairobi games, having achieved a similar feat for the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984.
Unfortunately, nobody checked these facts.
Berg was granted exclusive business rights to market the games and brought on board Coca-Cola and House of Manji among other companies.According to Henry Kosgey, then minister of Culture and Sports, they did not know that Berg was “an international crook.”
While he was to market the games internationally, the ministry only received Sh5 million before Berg fled out of the country without submitting the final accounts.He later claimed that he feared for his life and that was the last Kenyans heard of him and the promised Sh224 million.
The fake Saudi billionaire’s son-Mohammed Khashoggi
British newspapers thought his real name was Fred Achieng’, but nothing else was known about this man who always spotted a Yasser Arafat-style kaffiye and spoke with a refined accent that made his victims believe he was a senior executive of a multinational company with interests in Europe, the US, Asia, and Africa.
He told his victims that he was the son of Saudi billionaire Adnan Khashoggi – and that appeared to work. The 34-year-old Kenyan trickster left an astonishing trail of victims of his wily ruses in Mombasa, Nairobi and London. Hotels loved him because he was a big spender.In some four months in UK, he had accrued bills of £200,000 before he was arrested. The head of CID, Noah arap Too, later admitted that Mr “Khashoggi” once posed as a security intelligence agent before three five-star hotels took him in, thinking he was an international pianist.
In Mombasa, he targeted affluent but gullible business people. Many thought he was a genuine clearing and forwarding executive who could help at the Mombasa port.
The son of a former Permanent Secretary, he booked himself in a presidential suite of a hotel where he accumulated a bill of Sh150,000 before telling managers that they would be paid by Kanyotu International – possibly a reference to the dreaded head of Special Branch, James Kanyotu.
It was from this hotel that he conned a Mombasa businessman of Sh20 million after convincing him that his firm had won a multi-million shilling tender to supply equipment to the Kenya Ports Authority. He had told the businessman that he (Khashoggi) could help the businessman to procure the equipment cheaply since he had links to crane manufacturing companies in Europe.
In 1988, a British court had convicted the then 26-year-old of fraud and theft and jailed him for four years. He convinced Mr Sheppard that arms dealer Khashoggi was his father forcing the hotelier to apologise and order the Forum to roll out the red carpet for the billionaire’s son. The police later discovered that the man was actually a lowly-paid hotel porter!
‘Africa Tallest building’-Kenya
Back in 2011, Public Works minister Chris Obure read a government statement to announce government plans to put up the tallest building in Africa, a 60-storey tower, in Nairobi.The building was to be constructed in the city’s Upper Hill area at an estimated cost of Sh24-Sh32 billion.
The estimates were contained in a press release by officials of the National Economic and Social Council but the documents were soon withdrawn.The construction of the building was to demonstrate the country’s capacity to deliver on huge projects.No more details were provided. It was not clear what the building,to be shaped like a shield, would be used for.
Pastors and bishops
Deci sold its concept through pastors and bishops – who were the first victims.
They convinced their congregations to put money into the scheme.
Another one, Clip Investment Cooperative Society, was promising to pay 120 per cent interest on money collected from members to finance the publication of a Christian book, Rise up Again.
Others which operated along the same “investment” line included Bright Vision, Jitegemee, Akiba Micro Finance, Acid, Sasanet, Kenya Business, Global, Circuit, Swop Silver Ventures, and Fino.
Of these, the most complex was Sasanet, which had been registered in 2003 to offer premium rate and national payphone services.
It created the Sasanet Investment Co-operative Society Limited, which lured investors to put money into the project.
The majority of investors had contributed between Sh1 million and Sh2 million to have a stake in what was to be a multi-billion shilling venture with high returns.
DIBLA AMELIA, the Queen of Sheba
When Dibla Amelia George arrived in Nairobi in the first week of December 2001, she booked herself at the Grand Regency and told those who cared to be conned that she was the Queen of Sheba.
She said she had come to Kenya in search of diamonds.She was booked by the family of some drug baron into the Presidential suite.From here, she called a press conference, which was widely covered, to announce that she was seeking opportunities to invest Sh15 billion.
At the Regency, she had accrued a bill of Sh3.4 million, and the hotel security refused to let her leave until she cleared.Her friends tried to intervene but she ended up before Nairobi Magistrate who released her on a Sh500,000 bond.
On the night of January 30, she was whisked to the airport and the Queen of Sheba disappeared.
The fake Ugandan billionaire, Grace Aluma.
In 1982, Grace Aluma arrived in Nairobi masquerading as a billionaire.She told her gullible listeners that she was engaged in uranium business and was scouting for big deals with the US government, one of her customers.
Top names, including politicians, fell for that ruse and hoping to have a share of the $100 million (Sh8.6 billion at current exchange rate) which Aluma claimed to have in a Kenyan bank.
For those doubting her, she would flash some obviously forged documents as she collected money from various institutions eager to do business with her.
As an “investor”, she had managed to sell her story to some diplomats and was on the verge of selling International Life House to a diplomatic mission when she was smoked out.
But that was not before she had conned Kenya Commercial Bank, Swissair, Westlands Motors, UN consultant Dr Victor Johnson and Bahati MP Fred Omido of significant amounts of money.
Aluma was later jailed for two years on a charge of fraud and conspiracy to defraud a city bank of Sh100,000.
Laptop projects for kids
When the ‘digital’ Jubilee government took over power, they announced an ambitious plan to deliver 1.3m laptops to school children. The project will cost more than $600m (53bn Kenyan shillings/£400m). Almost two years down the line, there are no laptops yet. I will be honest with you, I don’t see this project ever taking off. Its not sustainable and its a project that fails to address the reality on the ground. To further prove this, the government in 2014/2015 budget said it would be rolling out computer laboratories for class 4 to 8 in all schools in the country, a clear move to do away with the laptop project.
Laptops alone won’t solve any of the structural and social issues – including a lack of trained teachers, intermittent power supplies and thousands of malnourished children – facing Kenya.