Fraudsters passing for gold traders have thrown Kenya into a diplomatic crisis after allegedly swindling 3.5 million euros from a member of the Dubai royal family.
Ali Zandi who is said to be a nephew of Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum claims he paid money for gold that was not delivered.
Despite a statement from the Golf State’s envoy in Nairobi distancing the royal family from the scam, Kenyan media outlets are buzzing with claims that Sheikh al-Maktoum was reportedly been piling pressure on Kenya to release trunks of gold retained at Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.
According to Daily Nation, the affair took a dramatic twist after members of the syndicate leaked the names of senior Kenyan government officials who are allegedly implicated in the dubious deal.
Police investigations are said to focus on shocking revelations that some of the scammers had the audacity to impersonate Interior CS Fred Matiang’i in a video that has gone viral on social media.
“They appear to have been operating as a syndicate for some time now, says Barrack Muluka, a political science researcher and columnist with the Nairobi-based Standard newspaper.
According to Muluka, the scammers probably have some bars of genuine gold and imitations which they use to approach prominent foreigners claiming it just reached Kenya from neighboring countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo.
“They cause their victims to part with quite handsome sums of money on the promise that the gold will be delivered in one way or the other in their home countries”, explains the Standard columnist.
The Star claims that the growing number of conmen operating in Kenya is a sign that people of the underworld enjoy protection from highly-placed politicians.
“This fake gold scam has taken the lid off the murky under-world dealings that occur in Nairobi right under the noses of those in authority”, comments Grapevine newspaper.
High profile trials
Business Daily for its part reports that 16 conmen including a Kenyan businessman are due to go on trial next week after being charged for conspiring to swindle 2.6 million euros from a Laos businessman in another fake gold racket.
An aide to Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang’ula, is quoted by the People Daily as saying that the gold scam was a business deal gone sour, but which is now being peddled by the lawmaker’s business partners who also lost money in the transaction.
Torn in Ruto's flesh
The scam took an incredible twist over the past week, following accusations by opposition Orange Democratic Movement MPs that Vice President William Ruto and his allies have been trying to drag the name of their leader Raila Odinga into the mess.
The charges came after Ruto slammed so-called opposition political brokers for being behind the scam he believed could put the country in a diplomatic showdown with the UAE royal family.
“Opposition-connected "political con men" had expanded their tentacles to international boundaries by claiming to conduct legitimate businesses” William Ruto said, during a visit to sell his 2022 agenda in Muanda Bumula constituency.
Nairobi News reports that Zaheer Jhanda, the flamboyant politician at heart of the scandal had allegedly been under pressure from Vice President Ruto’s cronies to travel to the DR Congo where the fake gold originates and implicate Raila Odinga.
The former Kenyan Prime Minister of the Grand Coalition Government that ruled Kenya from 2008 to 2013 is considered as an obstacle to Ruto’s 2022 Presidential hopes since his famous political handshake deal with President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Kenyan political pundits expect the 74 year-old Odinga who is barred by the constitution from seeking the country’s highest office to be the kingmaker come the 2022 general elections.