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Ibrahim Akasha sentencing moved to December

Saturday November 9 2019

Ibrahim Akasha

Ibrahim Akasha at the Mombasa Law Courts during the mention of his extradition case on November 18, 2014. His sentencing in the US has been postponed. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

KEVIN J. KELLEY
By KEVIN J. KELLEY
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MOHAMED AHMED
By MOHAMED AHMED
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A US judge Friday postponed the scheduled sentencing of confessed international drug trafficker Ibrahim Akasha.

The 30-year-old Kenyan citizen may now have to wait until December 6 to learn how much prison time he will serve. Ibrahim has been held for nearly three years in New York detention centres.

Time already served will be deducted from whatever sentence presiding Judge Victor Marrero eventually imposes on Ibrahim.

Federal guidelines set a minimum term of 10 years and a maximum of life imprisonment for the felonies to which Ibrahim and his older brother, Baktash, pleaded guilty a year ago.

Judge Marrero sentenced Baktash to a 25-year term in August.

The judge said at the outset of a 10-minute court session yesterday that the charges read out by US Magistrate Judge Katharine Parker at the Akasha brothers’ October 25, 2018 guilty pleading “may not accurately reflect” the actual charges filed by federal prosecutors.

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He added that he is uncertain of the implications of the apparent discrepancy. He asked defence and prosecuting attorneys to consider whether a postponement of Ibrahim’s sentencing would be in order.

The opposing lawyers agreed after a brief conference that they wanted time to examine the matter.

Judge Marrero then set December 6 as Ibrahim’s new sentencing date but instructed the attorneys to tell him if they prove able to proceed sooner.

Dawn Cardi, Ibrahim’s defence attorney, said in an interview following Friday’s court session that her client may have to plead a second time before a sentence can be handed down. Ibrahim would again plead guilty under those circumstances, Ms Cardi said.

She added that she did not know whether Baktash Akasha may also have to plead a second time if it is found that a discrepancy in charges did in fact occur.

The eventual sentencing of Ibrahim in the United States will mark the end of an empire.

Already, the jailing of Baktash has seen their local associates go into hiding, with some switching off their phones yesterday in anticipation of Ibrahim’s sentencing.

During his trial, Baktash read from handwritten notes and repeatedly apologised for his actions, which, he said, had harmed him and his family.

“I have only myself to blame,” he told the judge.

Punitive as the sentences may appear, there is, however, little evidence that Mombasa is losing its allure as a capital for drug trafficking.

This is after it emerged that heroin from Asia and cocaine from Latin America now transit through Kenya before heading to Europe, according to TV outlet France 24’s reports.

They said it’s an increasingly common sight off the East African coast — a ship from Pakistan with cargo of heroin on board, containing poppies harvested in Afghanistan and refined in Pakistan. A few kilometres off the Kenyan coast, it’s joined by a small fishing boat even as the government vows a total crackdown on the illicit trade.

The choice for the Kenyan coast, the reports said, is because it is poorly monitored by the authorities, and worse still, it is porous.

Once in Kenya, smugglers have several options: taking a plane straight to Europe or Dubai; moving the drugs to the capital Nairobi to send them abroad more discreetly; or even sending them to South Africa or West Africa to use an even less obvious route.

But the authorities are not giving up. Efforts by security agents in the region include the formation of a special team to crack down on the local drug networks and the monitoring of 60 influential individuals believed to be running the illicit trade.

Coast Regional Coordinator John Elung’ata said the recent arrests of local drug barons have led to a reduction in the supply of cocaine and heroin in the region.

“Little cocaine and heroin has been getting into the region because of the arrest of those drug barons. It is clear they were contributing largely to the supply of these drugs,” said Mr Elung’ata.