Obama targets Mwau in drug war

Thursday June 2 2011

Kilome MP’s US property, his companies and those of individuals who do business with him can now be seized by the American government after Obama declared him  a drug kingpin June 2, 2011. FREDRICK ONYANGO

Kilome MP’s US property, his companies and those of individuals who do business with him can now be seized by the American government after Obama declared him a drug kingpin June 2, 2011. FREDRICK ONYANGO 

By PATRICK MAYOYO [email protected]

US citizens who do business with Kilome MP John Harun Mwau risk going to jail for 30 years or being fined as much as Sh400 million.

US President Barack Obama Thursday listed Mr Mwau and businesswoman Naima Mohamed Nyakinywa as drug traffickers and slapped harsh economic sanctions against them.

Mr Obama’s action comes barely two weeks after a court in Jersey asked for the extradition of Nambale MP Chris Okemo and former Kenya Power and Lighting Company boss Samuel Gichuru to be tried for corruption and money laundering.

Mr Okemo chaired the Parliamentary Committee on Finance, which spearheaded efforts to reopen Charterhouse Bank, a firm the US claimed was being used by Mr Mwau for money laundering.

Those listed as drug traffickers stand to lose all their property in the US, or any business in which they have an interest. This is because many international financial transfers are processed in the US.

The Kingpin Act, signed into law on December 3, 1999, gives the US government power to seize property belonging to people the president believes are drug dealers.

To block the property

It also gives the government authority to block the property of any person or company “materially assisting in, or providing financial or technological support for or to, or providing goods or services in support of, the international narcotics trafficking activities of a person”.

US citizens are prohibited from doing business with listed suspects and those who violate the law can be fined up to $5 million (Sh400m) and face up to 30 years in jail. Companies can be fined up to $10 million (Sh800 million).

President Obama, in a report to the US Congress dated June 1, 2011, wants Mr Mwau’s US assets seized under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act.

The ban came alongside that of five other individuals from Mexico, Afghanistan and Kyrgyzstan.

A press release from the White House said in part: “This report to the Congress, under section 804(a) of the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act, 21 U.S.C. 1901-1908 (the “Kingpin Act”), transmits my designations of the following seven foreign individuals as appropriate for sanctions under the Kingpin Act and reports my direction of sanctions against them under the Act”.

The others are Manuel Torres Felix (Mexico), Gonzalo Inzunza Inzunza (Mexico), Haji Lal Jan Ishaqzai (Afghanistan), Kamchybek Asanbekovich Kolbayev (Kyrgyzstan) and Javier Antonio Calle Serna (Colombia).

These are not the first foreigners to be targeted by the US. Former Panama President Manuel Noriega was arrested and jailed over drug trafficking, while Colombian Pablo Escobar was killed after being on the run for decades.

The US Treasury says all property and interests in property can be seized if it belongs to a person identified by the president as a “significant foreign narcotics trafficker”.

Property can also be taken over if the Secretary of Treasury, in consultation with the Attorney General and other departments, believes the owners help or take part in international narcotics trafficking activities.

It is not clear what property Mr Mwau and Ms Nyakinywa own in the US, but Mr Mwau is linked to more than 12 companies that include the Nakumatt chain of supermarkets.

A report tabled in Parliament by police also shows that Mr Mwau has vast interests in Mwundo Ltd, Africa Centre for Hope Initiative Everywhere, Harun International Ltd, JH City Ltd, Preme Ltd, JN Records Ltd, Pepe Enterprises Ltd, Sheltown Ltd, Sports Champions Ltd, Tom Brown Ltd, Vitu Ltd and Kuston Kenya Ltd.

Allowed to comment

A spokesman at the US embassy in Nairobi said they were not allowed to comment on White House decisions.

Recently, Mr Mwau was among four MPs named in Parliament by Internal Security Minister George Saitoti over drug trafficking. The other MPs were Gidion Mbuvi (Makadara), William Kabogo (Juja) and Hassan Joho (Kisauni).

The MPs were implicated in a report by former US ambassador Michael Ranneberger linking them to money laundering and drug dealing.

However, police investigations failed to link them to the illegal trade. The detectives only established that Mr Mwau was the chairman of Pepe Inland Container depot in Athi River. On Thursday, Mr Mwau could not be reached for comment as his mobile went answered.

“He was calm and jovially talked to the staff and visitors; he spent some hours in the office and then left for business engagement, there was no moment of betrayal in his character that we noticed,” an aide to Mr Mwau, who requested not to be named, told the Nation around lunch time.

Information on Ms Nyakinywa was scanty although reports indicated that she was among three Kenyans arrested in Dar es Salaam over the weekend in connection with drug trafficking. According to a source, police also seized at least three vehicles belonging to the suspects.

However, CID director Ndegwa Muhoro said there were no papers to show that Ms Nyakinywa was Kenyan.

“We have been trying to trace her nationality since last week, but so far we have not established she is Kenyan,” he said.

Recently, the US government announced that its Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) department will establish a permanent office in Nairobi to help choke local cocaine and heroin trafficking routes.