Sunday, January 1, 2012

Kenyans named in Congo gold scam

President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga with the Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila at Harambee House office. President Kabila was in Nairobi on March 3,2011 to meet the two leaders over the smuggling of the Sh8 billion worth of gold. FILE / NATION.

President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga with the Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila at Harambee House office. President Kabila was in Nairobi on March 3,2011 to meet the two leaders over the smuggling of the Sh8 billion worth of gold. FILE / NATION. 

By Kevin J Kelley Nation Correspondent in New York

The United Nations has named three Kenyans it says are involved in smuggling gold from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

According to the UN report, the network based in Nairobi carries out deals involving large quantities of gold.

Counterfeit gold is also brokered in Nairobi, the UN added in the report by a team of experts that monitors arms and mineral-trade sanctions against rebel groups in the DRC.

Transactions of both real and fake gold serve as a key source of financing for groups in the DRC, including criminal elements in the Congolese army, that are responsible for millions of civilian deaths in recent years.

Kenya recorded no official imports of gold from the DRC in 2010 and 2011, notes the six-member UN panel, which includes a Kenyan arms expert, Mr Nelson Alusala.

The report also thanks the Kenyan government for cooperating in the panel’s wide-ranging investigations.

A Kenyan national, whom the report names, is said to have played an integral role in illegal gold deals.

The panel of experts examines in particular the sale of 2.5 tonnes of gold extracted from mines in Walikale in the DRC, smuggled to Nairobi and then sold in Thailand.

Citing “several gold smugglers” as its sources, the UN panel says the 2.5 tonnes of gold was traded in Nairobi by Jean Claude Mundeke Kabamba, alias “Dako,” a Congolese who pretends to be affiliated with the DRC military.

His alias is included in a list of 15 alleged gold traffickers presented to President Kibaki by DRC President Joseph Kabila last February.

Kenyan authorities subsequently discovered 400 kilogrammes of gold in Mr Kabamba’s home in Nairobi, the UN report recounts. (READ: DRC rebel held in Nairobi over smuggled gold)

Mr Kabamba and two associates were arrested and later released on bail, the report adds.

Mr Paul Kobia, a Kenyan national, is named in the 392-page report on the basis of information from the Kenyan CID as “the key individual behind most of the large gold scams in Nairobi.”

“According to documents found by the Kenya Police through raids on Kobia’s properties,” the report continues, “Kobia had a large number of commissioners working throughout the region selling counterfeit gold.”

Mr Kobia and a Mr Joe Karimi, whose identity is not specified in the report, also run a gold refinery said to be used by “all the main gold smugglers in Nairobi.”

“Kenyan authorities and gold dealers informed the group (of DRC experts) that a Cameroonian national, known as Yusuf Omar, ran a fake company in Nairobi called Butembo Mining,” the UN report further reveals.

“Omar cooperates with Eddy Michel Malonga, also from Cameroon, and ‘Robert’, also known as ‘Dr Roba,’ a Kenyan national.”

“Sumbu Robert, alias Roba,” is one of the 15 names on the list given to President Kibaki by President Kabila.

In November 2010, a Mr Paul Kobia Kabebria alias Paul Illunga Ngoei was arrested and charged with pretending that he was in a position to sell 825 kilogrammes of gold and consequently obtaining $200,000 (Sh16.2 million) from a South African, Mr Dennis Ray Schmelzenbach.

The case against Mr Paul Kobia Kabebria alias Paul Ilunga Ngoei was documented as CR 121/818/2010, OB 47/8/11/2010, CF1904/2010.

Police Commissioner Mathew Iteere had in March last year ordered officers from the Criminal Investigations Department to peruse documents related to gold trading in Kenya since 2008. (READ: Probe into smuggled gold deepens)

He ordered the detectives and their counterparts from the DRC to retrieve documents related to transactions of the precious metal for scrutiny.

Among documents retrieved included those from a local businessman under investigation.

The documents were forwarded to the police boss and the CID director.

Some of the documents relate to transactions between Kolkata, India-based Net Results and DRC-based Kivu Mining involving 1,000 kilogrammes of gold nuggets in September 2010.

Another set of documents signed in November 2010 include a private sale and purchase agreement between Groupe Miniere de Kisangani (GMK) and Meranti Holdings Ltd Joint Venture-Hong Kong involving the initial trial shipment of 825 kilogrammes.

Police were also reported to have sought Interpol’s assistance in investigating the syndicate that traverses South Africa, Dubai, DRC and Kenya.

The investigation was reported to have been conducted by the CID, Immigration Department, Kenya Revenue Authority and detectives from DRC.

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