State House, DOD at cen­tre of in­trigu­ing

Fraud­sters with ac­cess to the of­fices lured busi­ness­men with of­fers of ten­ders to sup­ply gov­ern­ment with var­i­ous equip­ment

Daily Nation (Kenya) - - HIGH HOPES IN UHURU NYANZA TOUR P. 22 AS RAILA ODI - BY ERIC WAINAINA

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As he stood be­fore Jus­tice Jesse Njagi at the Kakamega High Court charged with the mur­der of a neigh­bour, Mr Fredrick Muhanji Man­gala had an ob­jec­tion: He was not ready to pro­ceed with the hear­ing be­cause copies of wit­ness state­ments and a bal­lis­tics re­port had not been given to him.

Ac­cused of shoot­ing dead Mr Fredrick Ma­janga Lukhutsu in Irobo vil­lage in Kakamega County on Septem­ber 15, Mr Man­gala got his wish af­ter the judge or­dered the pros­e­cu­tion to sup­ply him with the doc­u­ments. With the next court ap­pear­ance listed as March 27, next year, he was as­sured of his free­dom in the in­terim — af­ter part­ing with Sh2 mil­lion bond with two sureties.

What Mr Man­gala did not know as he stepped out of the Kakamega court­room was that de­tec­tives from Nairobi, who had been on his trail for weeks, were wait­ing to ar­rest him.

He was soon sand­wiched be­tween elite Direc­torate of Crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tions (DCI) of­fi­cers in a Subaru Out­back headed for Nairobi.

Now locked up at Nairobi’s Muthaiga Po­lice Sta­tion since last Wed­nes­day for the next 10 days af­ter Ki­ambu Chief Magistrate Pa­tri­cia Gi­chohi al­lowed a re­quest by de­tec­tive James Mwangi of the Se­ri­ous Crimes Unit for fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tion, Mr Man­gala alias Mr Dou­glas Simiyu, is be­ing treated as the mas­ter­mind of an al­leged elab­o­rate crim­i­nal net­work that per­haps presents one of Kenya’s most au­da­cious — and alarm­ing — cases.

Twit­ter ac­count

The im­age of Mr Man­gala was later posted on the DCI Twit­ter ac­count be­hind a board declar­ing his charge as “ob­tain­ing money by false pre­tence” con­trary to sec­tion 313 of the Pe­nal Code. It did not cap­ture the grav­ity of the sit­u­a­tion.

Mr Man­gala’s case, the lat­est in a string of ar­rests in re­cent weeks, in­volves fake ten­ders be­lieved to have been is­sued by the sus­pected well-con­nected fraud­sters in­side some of the most guarded lo­ca­tions: State House, the Of­fice of the Deputy Pres­i­dent and the Depart­ment of De­fence. How the sus­pected fraud­sters gained ac­cess to these fa­cil­i­ties, oc­cu­pied of­fices for some time, im­per­son­ated of­fi­cials, lured their vic­tims and had items worth mil­lions of shillings de­liv­ered to them, re­mains the sub­ject of in­ves­ti­ga­tion and court cases.

Sev­eral in­sid­ers are thought to be part of the car­tel.

A re­view by the of in­ves­ti­ga­tion re­ports, court fil­ings and in­ter­views with vic­tims re­veals a group with sus­pected links to rogue staff at State House and the Deputy Pres­i­dent’s of­fice at Haram­bee House An­nexe. Their pre­ferred method, ac­cord­ing to po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tions, is lur­ing wealthy busi­ness peo­ple with fake “re­stricted” ten­ders com­plete with doc­u­ments to sup­ply equip­ment — mostly lap­tops — worth mil­lions of shillings. Ac­cord­ing to state­ments recorded by the po­lice, the meetings are typ­i­cally held in­side these gov­ern­ment of­fices, to gain the con­fi­dence of those be­ing tar­geted and give le­git­i­macy to the fake trans­ac­tions.

More than 10 peo­ple have so far filed sep­a­rate com­plaints with the po­lice af­ter los­ing mil­lions in fake ten­ders. Some of those sus­pected to be be­hind the racket have been ar­rested and ar­raigned in court where they are fac­ing charges of forgery and ob­tain­ing money by false pre­tence while some cases are still be­ing in­ves­ti­gated.

The crim­i­nals, who vic­tims say mas­quer­ade as se­nior se­cu­rity of­fi­cers and State House employees, also forge job iden­ti­fi­ca­tion cards, lo­cal pur­chase or­ders (LPO) and de­liv­ery notes, com­plete with let­ter­heads and stamps.

Mr Charles Gathii Ng’ang’a, a vic­tim, is count­ing losses of at least Sh240 mil­lion af­ter he was “awarded” fake ten­ders to sup­ply com­put­ers to State House and the Depart­ment of De­fence be­tween Jan­uary and Septem­ber.

Ac­cord­ing to his state­ment to the po­lice that will be the sub­ject of the court case, Mr Gathii, the direc­tor of Mi­cro House Tech­nol­ogy, was ap­proached by a Mr Dou­glas Simiyu — who de­tec­tives have un­masked as Mr Man­gala — mas­querad­ing as a Na­tional In­tel­li­gence Ser­vice of­fi­cer based at Nairobi’s Ny­ati House.

Mr Gathii told po­lice that “Mr Simiyu” in­formed him of a “sin­gle-sourced ten­der” to sup­ply 1,200 pieces of HP Envy lap­tops, which he claimed were needed at State House for a se­cu­rity project.

Mr Gathii al­leges “Mr Simiyu” took him to an of­fice at State House and later to an­other on the sec­ond-floor of Haram­bee House An­nex, which he was told hosts the pres­i­den­tial de­liv­ery unit. In both in­stances, he claims, “Mr Simiyu” eas­ily gained ac­cess to the pro­tected fa­cil­i­ties.

Af­ter “Mr Simiyu” was ar­rested on Tues­day in Kakamega and driven to Nairobi, Mr Gathii iden­ti­fied him as the per­son he dealt with.

Mr Man­gala’s al­leged ac­com­plice, Mr Eric Otieno Atanga alias Colonel Kipro­tich, has al­ready been charged be­fore Ms Gi­chohi at the Ki­ambu law courts with ob­tain­ing Sh40 mil­lion from Mr Gathii in con­nec­tion to a fake DOD ten­der.

Ac­cord­ing to two sworn af­fi­davits filed in court by Mr Mwangi, the DCI de­tec­tive lead­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, Mr Man­gala (who at the time was re­ferred to as “Mr Simiyu”) in­tro­duced busi­ness­man Gathii to a Ms Pa­tri­cia Mareka, a pur­ported State House of­fi­cial, and who the vic­tim also later met at Haram­bee House An­nex. De­tec­tives be­lieve Ms Mareka is pos­si­bly a fake iden­tity. The busi­ness­man also noted that in their var­i­ous meetings, Mr Man­gala was armed with a pis­tol.

The busi­ness­man said he made sev­eral vis­its both to State House and Haram­bee House An­nex in the city cen­tre and was on each oc­ca­sion in­tro­duced to peo­ple he was told were se­nior gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials aware of the ten­der. Mr Gathii also told po­lice he was asked to sign a non-dis­clo­sure agree­ment at Haram­bee House An­nex on Jan­uary 9.

There was more to come in the sus­pected scheme.

“It is well-co­or­di­nated since, in my case, when I took the LPOS to the bank, and a call was made for ver­i­fi­ca­tion, the re­ceiver re­sponded ‘this is State House, how may I help you?’,” said Mr Gathii.

When asked to di­rect the bank staffer to the pro­cure­ment unit, the call was trans­ferred to a per­son who claimed to be the head of the depart­ment, said Mr Gathii.

Af­ter ne­go­ti­a­tions and the “nec­es­sary ar­range­ments”, Mr Gathii was is­sued with the LPO by Ms Mareka and this, he said, erased any doubts the ten­der could be fake. He went ahead to sup­ply the 1,200 lap­tops.

The busi­ness­man said he was once taken to State House to col­lect the LPOS on Jan­uary 12 and was driven in a pro­vided Sil­ver Premio. He was later told to go to Haram­bee House An­nex to plan on the de­liv­ery lo­gis­tics.

State House vis­its

In­ter­est­ingly, de­spite Mr Gathii telling po­lice about the State House vis­its, de­tec­tives es­tab­lished his ve­hi­cle reg­is­tra­tion num­ber was never recorded.

The com­put­ers, which he bought us­ing a loan, were col­lected at Mr Gathii’s shop by Ms Mareka.

On Jan­uary 18, he did the first de­liv­ery of 100 lap­tops and the rest were de­liv­ered by Fe­bru­ary 2, and sub­mit­ted the in­voice af­ter be­ing is­sued with stamped de­liv­ery notes

“Af­ter they ‘de­liv­ered the goods, they came back with de­liv­ery notes, which had State House let­ter­heads and stamps pend­ing pay­ment. You can­not doubt the deal,” Mr Gathii said, he later wrote to “State House” in­di­cat­ing the ac­count where the pay­ments would be made but there was no re­sponse.

Ms Mareka is still on the run. The owner of the shop where Mr Gathii sourced the goods has also recorded state­ments with the po­lice.

De­tec­tive Mwangi, in a sworn af­fi­davit filed in court on Wed­nes­day, de­scribed the racket as a “com­plex mat­ter as it in­volves State House staff” and in his pre­vi­ous fil­ing, he told the court the in­ves­ti­ga­tions re­quired him to visit State House.

Af­ter sup­ply­ing goods, the pay­ments de­layed for months and Mr Gathii be­gan to be im­pa­tient.

But the sus­pected fraud­sters had other plans. In June, he was con­tacted about an­other lu­cra­tive ten­der at DOD, the mil­i­tary head­quar­ters.

The busi­ness­man was taken to a man who in­tro­duced him­self as “Ma­jor-gen­eral Ge­orge Abram Nyapindi” — po­lice be­lieve this is likely a fake name — who in­formed him lap­tops worth Sh40 mil­lion were needed for the in­stal­la­tion of a se­cu­rity sys­tem.

In his state­ment, Mr Gathii claims that af­ter sev­eral meetings with the man — which al­legedly took place in of­fices in­side DOD and in­volved other peo­ple wear­ing mil­i­tary fa­tigues who were in­tro­duced to him as se­nior of­fi­cers — the goods were once again col­lected from him. Some of the trans­ac­tion meetings used to hap­pen at We­ston Ho­tel, no­tably on Fe­bru­ary 25, 2018 when they were ne­go­ti­at­ing the DOD deal

When these pay­ments also de­layed, the sus­pected fraud­sters told Mr Gathii the of­fi­cer re­spon­si­ble for pay­ments had died in So­ma­lia. That was when he re­alised he had been swin­dled and re­ported to the po­lice.

De­tec­tives ar­rested Mr Atanga — who fash­ioned him­self as Colonel Kipro­tich — on Oc­to­ber 17, at a restau­rant on Lang’ata Road in Nairobi where he is thought to have gone to col­lect money from a po­ten­tial vic­tim on be­half of “Ma­jor-gen­eral Nyapindi”.

On Oc­to­ber 30, Mr Atanga was charged be­fore Ki­ambu Law Courts that be­tween Jan­uary 23 and Oc­to­ber 28, at Hurling­ham, jointly with oth­ers, he ob­tained Sh40 mil­lion from Mr Gathii by falsely pre­tend­ing that he was in a po­si­tion to award him a ten­der to sup­ply goods at DOD, which he knew was false.

He was also charged with forg­ing three ten­der doc­u­ments for DOD dated Septem­ber 28 and Septem­ber 29. He de­nied the of­fences and he has been freed on bond.

A busi­ness­woman, who did not want her iden­tity re­vealed as in­ves­ti­ga­tions were in­com­plete, has also come for­ward to claim she was conned out of Sh1.6 mil­lion in Oc­to­ber last year, af­ter be­ing is­sued with a “ten­der” to sup­ply com­put­ers to State House.

Ac­cord­ing to the woman, who re­ported her mat­ter at Kil­i­mani Po­lice Sta­tion, de­tec­tives are look­ing for sus­pects who had iden­tity cards claim­ing they were In­tel­li­gence of­fi­cers and State House of­fi­cials.

Ini­tial value

The ini­tial value of the “sin­gle-sourced ten­der”, she said, was given as Sh9 mil­lion and she sent her part­ner to State House to col­lect doc­u­ments with­out any hitch. This erased all doubts.

The sus­pected crim­i­nals, she said, gave her the op­tions of buy­ing and de­liv­er­ing the goods on her own or work­ing with some­one in­tro­duced to her as a con­tracted gov­ern­ment trans­porter — an op­tion she found more at­trac­tive.

She said she wired Sh1.6 mil­lion to the al­leged con­tracted sup­plier to “test the wa­ters” — and that was the last time she heard from the sus­pected fraud­sters, whose phones none­the­less re­main on.

In what is be­lieved to be part of the scheme, on Au­gust 14, seven sus­pects were ar­rested at a res­i­dence in West­lands for mas­querad­ing as of­fi­cers from the of­fice of the Deputy Pres­i­dent. They were al­leged to have had fraud­u­lently ob­tained 700 lap­tops, val­ued at Sh320

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