Flamboyant politician John Harun Mwau strikes a confident pose and talks with a mark of conviction. He has straddled the Kenyan business circles for decades.
He has splashed his philanthropy in political campaigns with some degree of abandon, a testament to his immense wealth said to spread across continents.
But today, he’s worried that the US government wants him dead because of his vast business interests in America, estimated at about Sh50 billion.
In an exclusive interview with the Sunday Nation in his Nairobi office on Thursday, Mr Mwau said he has every reason to believe that the recent move by the US government to designate him as a significant foreign narcotics drug trafficker was tailored to make him an easy target for elimination.
“The US never apologises for killing its enemies, real or imagined. They will violate other nations’ airspace and eliminate their targets. The task of justification is left to themselves,” he said dejectedly.
Mr Mwau, popularly known as the ‘Boss’ within political, social and business circles, now wants the Kenya government to shield him against being “captured, shot and buried in the deep sea by US snipers” just as they did with international terror mastermind Osama bin Laden last month.
Indeed Mr Mwau faults President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga for remaining quiet when his security was being threatened by the President of a friendly state.
“President Kibaki and the PM share executive powers ... the American government is known to come to the aid of its citizens whenever they are in trouble, unfortunately we are yet to see our two leaders acting with the same zeal.
“We have seen Uganda toy around with two Kenyan islands and the government appears to be unconcerned that foreign troops were interfering with its own citizens’ rights.
“Then we saw some Ethiopians cross the border and maim Kenyans at will; next we saw the US government release names of eight Kenyan MPs allegedly involved in drugs, then six Kenyans were herded to The Hague to face the International Criminal Court.
“Now we are being told that some Kenyans are wanted in Jersey and then before the dust settles, Mwau is being named by President Obama as a drug kingpin. This trend is worrying,” the Kilome MP said.
Mr Mwau’s fears were provoked by President Obama’s recent move to name him as one of seven individuals wanted for drug trafficking under American law. (READ: Obama targets Mwau in drug war)
Mr Mwau says his battle with the US is not about drugs but his multi-billion-shilling businesses said to be worth $750 million (about Sh50 billion).
“The US government knows that I have interests in a chain of businesses, especially in supermarkets.
“They know that we have been expanding and growing. They want to stop this and have their own people take them over,” Mr Mwau claimed.
The same has been seen in Mozambique where three major shopping outlets – Grupo MBS Limitada, Grupo MBS-Kayum Centre and Maputo Shopping Centre – associated with suspected drug baron on President Obama’s radar, Mohammed Bachir Suleman, have been blacklisted.
Asked to confirm the Sh50 billion figure, Mr Mwau said: “I have been in business for the last 50 years.
“There are many serious businessmen in Kenya who are making millions in profits every month. I have been in this field for many years and what you are suggesting is not far from the truth.”
A close aide and business associate said the former police marksman had extensive business interests spread in various parts of the world.
“Mr Mwau is well connected. He does businesses with some of the finest brains in the field not just in the US but in Europe, Japan and China,” the aide said.
Mr Mwau has specialised in large-scale import and export of goods of different types.
“In the US, you will see him trading in the buying and selling of arts and crafts, clocks and watches, eyeglasses, decorations, consumer electronics, furniture, general merchandise, glassware, kitchenware, electronics and electrical goods, computers, suitcase bags and toys.
“Over the years, Mr Mwau has perfected this trade, opening up markets in several parts of the world,” said the associate who cannot be named discussing the MP’s business details.
Mr Mwau also owns several houses and hotels in the US. The MP, who resigned his post as an assistant minister when his name was mentioned in Parliament by Internal Security minister George Saitoti in connection with drugs, has gone to the courts to clear his name.
“I believed in my innocence and that is why I opted to resign, unlike many of my colleagues. It was voluntary because I did not want to be told that I was blocking independent investigations,” he said.
Two weeks ago, President Obama directed sanctions against the Kilome MP and businesswoman Naima Mohammed Nyakiniywa under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act which, among other things, includes seizure of property under American jurisdiction.
The directive by Mr Obama against the two also included five other individuals from Mexico, Afghanistan and Kyrgyzstan.
Ms Nyakiniywa – who is facing criminal charges in Tanzania – has denied the drug trafficking allegations through her lawyer, saying the American government was unfairly targeting her.
The Kingpin Act targets persons who are suspected to have owned, controlled, or directed by, or acting for or on behalf of another major suspect or playing a significant role in international narcotics trafficking.
Mr Mwau, who has two cases against the US government currently going on in the High Court, has written to the police demanding an answer as to whether, in their records, they have him as a drug dealer.
Last Wednesday, he demanded a ministerial statement from the minister for Foreign Affairs regarding the sanctions and the actions of the US President blacklisting him as a drug baron.
Sources close to the police say recent communication from the Police Commissioner has absolved the MP of any wrong doing.
He first sued former Ambassador Michael Ranneberger in court on April 26 in a 118-page suit where the Attorney-General is the first defendant and the envoy a second defendant.
On June 10, Mr Mwau was back in court in a fresh application this time seeking the court’s intervention in compelling the AG and the US government to make public a report that led to the US government blacklisting him as a drug kingpin.
“When the president of a powerful state like the US names you negatively, it is not a laughing matter. I have asked my government as a law abiding citizen to offer me protection.
“I have justified my innocence and even asked the minister for Internal Security to beef up my security but he is treating things lightly,” Mr Mwau said.
He says he does not consider taking his legal battles to the US.
Mr Mwau claims that Prof Saitoti was emerging as a stumbling block in his bid to have the truth told.
“Prof Saitoti, unless he is involved in political machinations, is not leading this matter in the right direction. He attended Mr Ranneberger’s farewell party and I am not reading a good script here.
“He promised in Parliament that he will need about a month or two to complete investigations, we are now counting four months and he has remained quiet despite the fact that among his top team of investigators into the drug saga was an assistant commissioner of police and two senior superintendents of police,” says Mr Mwau.
He says the government’s move to have detectives from the FBI to help in investigations was laughable. Mr Mwau blames Mr Ranneberger for his tribulations. He also accuses the media of not doing enough on drugs.
“We saw the press dilly-dallying for unknown reasons when a 16-page document that the US ambassador gave to Prof Saitoti’s office and the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission was released.”
Mr Mwau then fished out a document and showed it to the Sunday Nation: “This is the original report but Prof Saitoti, while releasing the names of suspected drug dealers, chose to omit many other names.
“In that original document, the names of eight MPs are given by the US government. Why was the Kenyan press shy of employing their own tactics to get to the bottom of the whole saga?”
Turning to Mr Ranneberger’s report dated December 7, 2010, which he says was used by the US government to blacklist him, Mr Mwau says someone he knows and who was looking for favours from the US Embassy in Kenya gave false information about him and others to the US.
According to him, the person who gave information about him and who he did not name received the favour he was looking for.
“Look at that report. Mr Ranneberger says Juja MP William Kabago is my son-in-law yet I don’t know even the MP’s wife.
“If, indeed, he is married to my daughter, then definitely somebody somewhere must have photos of the wedding. You cannot miss me in such a gathering”.
Turning more anger on the envoy, Mr Mwau says his report appears to suggest that the head of state was benefiting from drug money.
“In that report, the envoy claims that the president has another woman in his family whom he describes as a drug peddler, suggesting that the Head of State is a beneficiary of the vice, yet none other than the President and the First Lady have openly stated that theirs is the only family they know.”
He laughs off a suggestion by the US that he probably started dealing in drugs when he was a young police officer.
Mr Mwau is among four MPs who were investigated over drug trafficking allegations by Kenyan police and a report tabled in Parliament exonerated them from the illegal trade.
He was investigated alongside Gidion Mbuvi (Makadara), Hassan Joho (Kisauni) and William Kabogo (Juja).
Prof Saitoti later announced that the report he presented in Parliament was a preliminary document, implying that an investigation against them was still under way.