How Goldenberg scandal was hatched and executed

Saturday November 24 2012

By Sunday Nation Reporter [email protected]

Billionaire businessman Kamlesh Pattni rose to notoriety on the back of the Goldenberg infamy which nearly brought the economy to its knees in the early 1990s.

The Goldenberg scandal was hatched and executed in the early between 1991 and 1993 and was billed as a major foreign exchange earner for the country.

In the scheme, Goldenberg International, a company owned by Mr Pattni and former spy chief James Kanyotu would export gold and diamond jewellery and receive compensation from the government for earning foreign exchange.

It turned out that Goldenberg International was not exporting any gold and diamond jewellery and that their claims were fictitious.

The scheme was executed in conjunction with Exchange Bank Ltd which was also owned by Mr Pattni and Mr Kanyotu.

The scheme which ran for about three years brought the economy to its knees.

Economics professor Terrence Ryan, who once served as Economic Secretary, at the Treasury estimates that it will take three generations for Kenya to fully recover from the effects of the scheme.

Forensic auditor Melville Smith, who testified at the Goldenberg Commission of Inquiry – appointed to unravel the scheme that was carefully buried in troves of documents and twisted transactions – estimated that the country lost up to Sh100 billion.

So brazen was the scheme that in 1993, Goldenberg International received Sh5.8 billion of taxpayers’ money in three tranches in three months.

Mr Pattni has been in and out of court over the schemes and is still fighting court battles over the scheme.

His co-accused – Mr Kanyotu, former Treasury PS Wilfred Koinange and former deputy Central Bank governor Eliphaz Riungu – have died of varied causes while the cases are ongoing, leaving Mr Pattni to fight out the battles alone.

As part of his efforts to bring to the scandal that has haunted him for two decades to a closure, Mr Pattni returned the multi-billion shilling Grand Regency Hotel to the taxpayer as part of restitution. But he is still facing criminal charges over the scheme.

So voluminous are the documents about Goldenberg that the inquiry to unravel it lasted two years – between 2003 and 2005 – and had to be carried in pickups at times.

Mr Pattni changed from his Hindu religion to Christianity, opting for the name Paul. He is now a self-professed televangelist and pastor.