Kamlesh Mansukhlal Damji Pattni says he is an innocent man who has only been unfortunate to have been harassed and persecuted by detectives, prosecutors and lawyers.
Painting a picture of relief following the judgment that set him free and touched off outrage at the Law Society of Kenya, Mr Pattni told the Sunday Nation that he is now ready to devote more time to his family and preach the Gospel across the country and around the world.
“I feel like a million tonnes have been lifted off my head and the yoke around my head has been removed by the power of God. God proved on March 25 that it matters not what mortals think. No one can understand God’s plan,” he said.
On March 25, 2013 all charges against the man who is alleged to have masterminded one of Kenya’s biggest financial scandals through which the country lost up to Sh100 billion were quashed.
Pattni, who faced nine criminal charges related to the Goldenberg scandal, walked free after the High Court ruled that the businessman would not receive a fair trial because of, among other reasons, delay in the prosecution of the Sh5.8 billion fraud case. Pattni has no idea how many millions of pages of legal documents he has read in the last two decades.
His life in and out of the courts has generated 20,000 square feet of documents that he stores in a godown in Industrial Area, Nairobi. Thanks to new technology, Pattni has backed up his trove of documents on a computer from where he can reel them off at the fall of a hat.
Welcome to the world of a man whose multi-billion shilling legal imbroglio – spinning out what is easily Kenya’s worst financial scandal — has captivated Kenyans for a solid 20 years. He has been called a cheat, a thief, a liar and a fraudster. He was once charged with murder, but the case collapsed.
And last month, High Court judge Joseph Mutava ended the Goldenberg trials and said that Pattni should be prosecuted no more.
Sunday Nation sought out the man who has been accused of crippling the economy and defrauding the Treasury of what experts estimated to be in the region of Sh100 billion.
Pattni protests his innocence and says that LSK in complaining against the judgment are not fair and must be driven by ulterior motive arising from the legal practice of some of their senior members.
First, he pulls out a document from Scotland Yard that he says proves beyond any doubt that he actually exported gold to Britain.
He says prosecutors have over the years ignored that side of his story and that they have pursued him in a vendetta rather than seeking justice. He never convinced the Commission of Inquiry into the Goldenberg Affair of as much during his lengthy appearance.
Mr Pattni said he is innocent and was only a 26-year-old businessman whose ambitions went terribly awry when he became the target of ill-intentioned business rivals.
The business rivalry, he said, snowballed into a political battle and that is how he found himself in the courts. He cites his decision to return the Grand Regency Hotel to the government – and by extension Kenyans – and describes it as restitution that should have brought the Goldenberg nightmare to an end.
“Kenyans should be balanced as a society. We should not be a mob-lynching society. Is it a crime to stand and fight for your innocence in Kenya? Are we going to say that when the Judiciary rules in favour of anyone else it is fine and when it rules in favour of Kamlesh Pattni the judge must have been corrupted? Don’t I have the same rights as anyone else?” he asked.
He said that he has at times felt that the prosecution against him was racist “because I’m not from a big Kenyan tribe.”
In the past 20 years, Pattni has been somewhat a permanent feature at the law courts, fighting this or that aspect of the Goldenberg court cases. As the owner of Goldenberg International and Exchange Bank, the two companies accused of siphoning staggering amounts of money between 1991 and 1993, Pattni has been at the centre of court cases which never seem to come to a conclusion.
“These 20 years have been like what Mandela or Kenyatta felt like to be persecuted and called the most evil names and incarcerated for two years for murder charges that collapsed,” Mr Pattni said.
His court battles began in August 1993, and he said he was in jail every weekend. By the age of 26, he said he had been “locked up in all the police stations you can imagine.”
By the time he married seven years later he had seen it all with detectives and prosecutors routinely raiding his premises for documents and dragging him to court.
His family, he says, have borne more than their fair share of the toll that comes with battling court cases half his lifetime.
“Oh my God. It has affected my family up to today. I missed my children growing up. They grew up fatherless because they partly grew up when I was in jail. I could never attend any of their events at school. I missed my youngster life,” he said.
‘For two decades of my life, I have been fighting to exonerate myself and if age was not on my side, I would have been dead.”
Mr Pattni says that th Goldenberg trials turned him into some kind of leper and nobody, he says, has wanted to associate with him, shake his hand or sit at a restaurant with him for a cup of coffee “lest they are infected.”
“It was all out of lies told a million times and it became the truth. Even the Bosire report has been faulted. People had been made to belive that only air was going out of the country and there was no gold. That is not true,” he said.