Questions abound over who in Kenya benefited from billions of shillings laundered by two Somali men jailed in Belgium over extortion and supporting sea piracy.
The latest United Nations Monitoring Report on Somalia and Eritrea depicts Kenya as a gangsters’ paradise where officials can easily be misled by blue collar criminals to allow high crimes, including money laundering, to thrive and morph into legitimate-looking business.
It suggests that millions or billions of shillings from Somalia’s piracy industry have entered Kenya’s airline, car import, fishing and energy sectors and could be supporting crimes such as arms trafficking, and that many Kenyan businessmen still operate financial links with proceeds of crime and suspects described as lords of Somalia’s sea piracy.
Mohamed Abdi Hassan, alias Afweyne, and Mohamed Abdullahi Moalim Aden, alias Tiiceey, who have had businesses in Kenya, are cooling their heels in a Belgian jail following their arrest on October 12, 2013, for facilitating piracy.
Belgian police detained them when they arrived in Brussels and placed them under investigation for the hijacking of Belgian vessel Pompeii in 2009 but it is not clear if the Kenyan authorities ever investigated the two for any crimes.
Invested billions See also: Al Shabaab attacks soldiers in south Somalia, 24 dead Now the UN report claims that after purporting to renounce piracy about five years ago, the two men invested billions in an airline — Central Air Aviation — which operates from Wilson Airport in Nairobi, Bishkek in Kyrgzystan and Somalia.
These are the three nations where the two men enjoyed what is described as an “environment of impunity” that allowed them to invest in new forms of business and launder profits in airlines, renewable energy technology and other sectors. After investing in the khat trade, Afweyne is said to have sanctioned or been involved in 24 sea hijackings until 2012, when he made millions of US dollars and decided to invest in other businesses. This led to the establishment of Central Air Aviation in partnership with Tiiceey and several Kenyan Somali businessmen. “Between 2012 and 2014, Central Air was found to be operating multiple aircraft with several airline companies in Kenya and Kyrgyzstan, and had established offices throughout Somalia,” says the report.
The report alleges further that “Tiiceey financially benefitted from Afweyne’s piracy by supplying his piracy network with communication devices and facilitating hostage releases, ransom payments, negotiations and other arrangements. “The prevailing climate of impunity enabled Afweyne to invest the proceeds he had illegally accumulated during the past decade in the newly-established airline Central Air, and it enabled others to partner with him unhindered.” Between 2012 and the time of writing the report, Afweyne was preparing to buy an aircraft from Ukraine’s Defence ministry and had leased planes from five Kenyan private airlines operating from Wilson Airport.
The report says that Afweyne’s arrest did not deter his alleged money laundering or the criminal ways of his sons and friends, because Central Air Aviation continues to operate from Kenya and other places. It is also said that following his detention, his accomplices plotted to kidnap a Belgian to be used as a bargaining tool. The UN report published in October last year for the UN Security Council documents claims that Afweyne and Tiiceey sanctioned a large-scale criminal empire that involved activities such as money laundering, killing, extortion and plunder with the support of a massive criminal network of brokers, government officials, pirates and other outlaws in Kenya and Somalia.
Tiiceey’s activities are more relevant to Kenya because the report says that besides operating bank accounts in Kenya, he was contracted by the Kenyan authorities to negotiate with pirates who hijacked the Ukrainian flag ship Mv Faina laden with 33 T-72 tanks imported by the Kenyan military in September 2008. Foreign media claimed the Kenyan authorities imported the tanks for the Government of South Sudan, which the Kenyan administration denied. Yesterday, former Foreign Affairs assistant minister Richard Onyonka told The Standard on Sunday that he does not know Tiiceey or Afweyne or have information about their alleged activities in Kenya. He also said the Foreign Affairs ministry was not involved in the negotiations for the release of MV Faina.
“I am not aware that any negotiations [for the release of MV Faina] took place concerning the consignment or whether a ransom was paid,” says Onyonka who adds that the matter was a top secret mission conducted by “other departments of state other than the Foreign Affairs ministry within the strictest confidence in government.”
According to Onyonka the military is best placed to respond to the questions arising over the matter. When we spoke to Foreign Affairs Permanent Secretary Karanja Kibicho on Tuesday, he said he had not read the UN report. Apart from Mv Faina, Tiiceey is said to have negotiated in about seven other hostage/kidnap situations from the safety of a restaurant in Nairob, where Kenyan authorities allegedly allowed him free reign and even wrote a letter acknowledging his role as a negotiator with pirates and kidnappers. One of these alleged negotiations featured Judith Tebutt, the British woman kidnapped from a hotel in Lamu on September 11, 2011, and set free after a ransom of between $800,000 (about Sh78 million) and $1.1 million (Sh107 million) was paid. From this, Tiiceey is said to have made $20,000 (Sh1.9 million). Kenyan authorities are said not to have known he was behind sea attacks and piracy/hijackings.
Source: Standard Media