Mystery surrounds Mombasa tycoon Ali Punjani’s return to the country from India where he sought refuge after police raided his home last month accusing him of engaging in drug trafficking.
Mr Punjani is said to have sneaked into the country through Tanzania last week and maintained a low profile at his Nyali residence since then. It is not clear when he returned to the country.
Highly-placed sources claimed that police officers who were on Mr Punjani’s trail were issued with firm orders to go slow on the matter ahead of his return to the country from India where he had allegedly gone to seek specialised treatment.
“We were not aware of his arrival, but the directive was clear that he should not be arrested,” said the source within the investigating team.
On Monday, Mr Punjani said that he was a free man contrary to widely circulated reports that he was wanted by authorities to answer to drug trafficking charges.
In a WhatsApp text message to a Nation journalist, Mr Punjani said he had been in Mombasa for the past one week.
“I am currently in Mombasa. I have been in Mombasa Town for one week and as you can see, I am reading today’s paper in my house,” he said.
He went ahead to prove his presence in the country by accompanying the message with a photo of himself holding a copy of the Daily Nation dated September 16.
The reports that he had sneaked into the country through Tanzania were widely circulated on social media.
Contacted, newly-posted County Police Commander Augustine Nthumbi distanced himself from warnings issued earlier by his predecessor that Mr Punjani would be arrested as soon as he sets foot in the country.
“I am not privy to what was happening. You can ask those who were around,” Mr Nthumbi told the Sunday Nation by telephone.
While away in India, Mr Punjani had moved to court to seek an anticipatory bail to block his arrest following police warnings that he would be arrested.
Come last week, Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Noordin Haji refuted reports that a warrant of arrest had been issued against the businessman.
Speaking in Tana River County where he was accompanied by Inspector General of Police Hillary Mutyambai, Mr Haji said: “We have not shown any intentions to arrest Mr Punjani, but we are aware he has moved to court to seek an anticipatory bail on a pending arrest.”
Mr Haji added that Mr Punjani had only “panicked”, hence the move to court.
Mr Haji was referring to the application filed on September 4 by Mr Punjani's lawyer Jared Magolo.
Mr Punjani argued in the High Court that on August 13 his residence in Nyali had been raided but nothing incriminating was found.
It was after the search led by former Mombasa County Commander Johnston Ipara that police said Mr Punjani was a wanted man and would be arrested once he arrived in Kenya.
“We will arrest him the minute he gets into the country. We want him to come and explain to us where he got all his wealth. We got a lot of cheques, title deeds and more than Sh63,000 from his house during our crackdown,” said Mr Ipara, who has since been transferred to Uasin Gishu.
The police chief had maintained that the businessman was a drug trafficking suspect.
Mr Punjani was at the time admitted to Asian Heart Institute in India. Among those arrested during the raid were Mr Punjani’s wife and some relatives.