Saturday, November 13, 2010

Artur brothers scandal returns to haunt top officials

File | NATION Artur Margaryan, one of the two Armenian brothers whose stay in Kenya in 2006 was the subject of controversy, displays an Armenian passport.

File | NATION Artur Margaryan, one of the two Armenian brothers whose stay in Kenya in 2006 was the subject of controversy, displays an Armenian passport. 

By ALPHONCE SHIUNDU [email protected]

The scandal of the Artur brothers, the two alleged Armenians widely believed to be con men with high-level connections who briefly commanded attention on the streets of Nairobi in 2006, returns to haunt the government’s inner circle next week.

This follows demands by MPs Gitobu Imanyara (Imenti Central) and Martha Karua (Gichugu) that two reports of investigations into the activities of the notorious duo be discussed in Parliament.

While Mr Imanyara wants to re-table a 2007 parliamentary report about the Armenian nationals, Ms Karua wants the government to present its hitherto top-secret findings in the report of the commission of inquiry that was chaired by former police commissioner Shedrach Kiruki.

Former Kabete MP Paul Muite, who chaired the parliamentary investigations into the Artur brothers, told the Sunday Nation that the House was well within its mandate to seek the inquiry reports.

Taxpayers’ money

“The commissions of inquiries used taxpayers’ money. Therefore the government owes the public the findings,” said Mr Muite. “In the name of accountability and transparency in the new Constitution, the public has a right to know what is contained in that report.”

He said this was a “new Kenya” and that the public retained the right to access information that they need and want.

The matter came up in Parliament on Thursday with Ms Karua demanding an answer from the Internal Security ministry. But the minister and his two assistants were not in the House.

The parliamentary report, which was tabled in 2007 but was never debated, indicts top government officials. If the report is re-tabled next week as expected and adopted by MPs, the country could see another round of political manoeuvres and demands for those implicated to take responsibility.

Furthermore, adoption of the report would shine a light on top government officials and their role in the scandal that exposed the country to international ridicule.

According to Parliament’s report first tabled in September 27, 2007, the government has to answer the following questions: “What did it know about the Arturs? Who was protecting them in government? For what purposes was the Kiruki Commission established? Was it stage-managed for a cover-up?”
However, the report is explicit that the commission was an official cover-up and that it “never intended to unearth the truth”.

The House will also want to know why the government has so far refused to make public the findings of the Kiruki Commission.

“All these issues have to be addressed in order to unearth the truth,” notes the report, now part of Parliament’s records.

The report alludes to evidence that the two foreigners were “con men and drug traffickers”, who enjoyed the protection of “the high and mighty in government.”

Environment minister John Michuki and Francis Muthaura, the Head of Civil Service are some of the top people named for further inquiry to establish their links with Artur Margaryan and Artur Sargasyan. Mr Michuki was in charge of internal security when the men were in Kenya in 2006.

Businessman Kamlesh Pattni, whose name keeps popping up in big scandals in the country, is also recommended for investigation.

Others named are Mary Wambui, her daughter Winnie Wangui Mwai and Stanley Murage, the former special adviser to President Kibaki.

Pattni’s associate

Raju Sanghani, Mr Pattni’s close business associate, is said to have provided his driver to act as a tour guide for the Arturs. Mr Sanghani is also said to have identified the Runda residence for the two after they rejected a previous offer of a residence in Lavington, which they said “was too open”.

According to their driver Richard Nerima, the two went to State House to meet the President, but “they missed him”.

They were asked to go back the following day. The driver later learnt that the Arturs “actually met with the President”, the report says.

“After the meeting with the President, they were to go to Uganda,” the driver told the joint House committee sittings in November 21, 2007. For their unhindered passage across the border, Mr Murage and the then Presidential Escort Commander were reportedly tasked with processing their passports.

The two also sought and got an appointment with Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka “one morning after the (2005) referendum”. They wanted Mr Musyoka, a former Foreign Affairs minister, “to help them with contacts in the region”.

The report says the Artur brothers met Mr Michuki at his Windsor Golf and Country Club in Nairobi “where they were taken by Mr Sanghani”.

The infamous March 2, 2006 night raid at the Standard Group will also put Mr Michuki on the spot. This is because, despite closed-circuit-television cameras showing a man with “stunning resemblance to Artur Margaryan” leading the raid, Mr Michuki maintained that it was “a government operation”.

The then director of the Criminal Investigation Department, Joseph Kamau, is also said to have been hobnobbing with the two. Mr Kamau was said to have been a regular visitor, first when the brothers stayed at the presidential suite at the former Grand Regency hotel and later in the parties they threw at night at their Runda residence.

The impunity with which Margaryan and Sargasyan went around the city, including denying police officers entry into their Runda residence — they had fierce dogs — is laid bare in the report.

The public was outraged, and many Kenyans, the report notes, demanded to know “who these individuals were and why their arrogance demonstrated high-level connection and protection and even contempt for Kenya and her people”.

MPs will be debating the embarrassing incident after an assurance by the President this weekend that they should step up their oversight role, more so, to fight corruption.

The President was addressing ministers, their assistants and chairpersons of House committees on Friday at a retreat at Leisure Lodge in Kwale.

The legal definition of corruption is “bribery; fraud; embezzlement or misappropriation of public funds; abuse of office; breach of trust; or an offence involving dishonesty”.

Other than the Arturs report, the House also wants to have a look at the Report of the Cockar Commission on the Sale of Grand Regency Hotel; the Report of Inquiry into the Raid on Retired Archbishop Gitari’s House in Kirinyaga on April 21, 1999; the Report of the Akiwumi Commission of Inquiry into the Tribal Clashes and Report of the Chesoni Commission of Inquiry into Kirinyaga/Embu Land Dispute.

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