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Envoy distances United Arab Emirates from Sh400m gold scam

Wednesday May 22 2019

United Arab Emirates

United Arab Emirates Ambassador to Kenya Khalid Khalifa al Mualla attends an investment forum at Villa Rosa Kempinski. He has said his country should not be linked to a recent gold scandal. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

AGGREY MUTAMBO
By AGGREY MUTAMBO
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The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has distanced itself from a scandal in which a relative of the country’s ruler is reported to have lost up to Sh400 million to a syndicate in Kenya.

The UAE ambassador to Kenya, Mr Khalid Al Mualla, told the Nation there is no link between his government and the gold traders currently involved in a dispute in Kenya, adding that his country is disappointed to see a series of memes depicting the royalty as giving orders to Kenya.

The ambassador’s statement came amid claims that the Dubai ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, had been piling pressure on the Kenyan government to release gold reportedly detained at the airport.

PERSONAL ISSUE

Asked about a letter purportedly written by the Dubai leader to Kenyan authorities, he said: “There is no such letter. It is all fabricated, and even if there were, who in their right sense would believe him? He is the vice-president of the country. There has been no official communication on this issue between Kenya and the UAE.”

“I think it is important that we let things take legal channels because Kenya and the UAE have competent authorities who can do the job of investigating this issue,” the envoy said in an interview on Tuesday.

It was the first time the ambassador was publicly commenting on the gold scam, which emerged late last month.

The diplomat suggested that the matter is more of a private transaction between private firms than a matter of intercountry relations.

Despite claims of leaked letters showing UAE had written to the President of Kenya, Mr Al Mualla said the documents circulated online are fake because he would normally be the one to deliver them.

SABOTAGE

One of the people involved and identified as Ali Zandi Goharizzi and who claims he paid money for gold that was not delivered is said to be the nephew of Sheikh al-Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai, one of the seven emirates in the UAE.

The ambassador could not state whether the ruler had been involved in any gold importation from Kenya, but argued the man named Zandi is in fact not a native of UAE, and therefore could not be a nephew of the ruler.

“I can’t tell you if he (Zandi) exists or not, but who is he? Can anyone show me proof that the gold was going to the ruler of Dubai? I have not seen such a thing and I think someone was working hard to damage relations, which are cordial. Both Kenya and UAE are smarter than that,” he said.

The Nation can further confirm that Mr Zandi does not come from any of the seven kingdoms that make up the UAE.

IMPORT FIRMS

Mr Goharizzi is a Canadian national born in Tehran, Iran, on April 29, 1984, according to a copy of his passport.

It is believed that he or his representatives invoked the Sheikh’s name in order to get the Kenyan fraudsters to release his gold after realising that he had been conned.

As to whether the firm named in the scam existed, the diplomat said several UAE firms import gold from Africa for refining and it would not be unusual for deals to sometimes fall through.

“If there is a dispute between two companies, we are not the ones who are going to determine who is right or wrong. There is the law and if people have facts, they can go to court,” he said.

RELATIONS

The scam is said to have roped in senior Kenya government officials after brokers tabled their names, defending themselves on why the gold had not been released from the airport.

The ambassador said though President Kenyatta and the Dubai ruler enjoy close ties, the two have not met to discuss the gold scam.

So far, he argued, there has been no request for information from the Kenyan side on the scam, but the UAE will be “ready to provide any useful information if it involves the UAE government”.

Additional reporting by Vincent Achuka