Top government offices, including State House and the office of the Deputy President, have become the new haven for crooks dangling fake tenders to swindle moneyed and unsuspecting businessmen.
Tough questions are now being raised about how the criminals who easily access government offices – are allowed to have meetings in posh offices or boardrooms – are served tea in VIP style without any alarm.
However, detectives believe the audacious plot involves the connivance of high profile civil servants as part of the cartel, in what appears as the changing face of corruption.
The details emerged after former Sports Cabinet Secretary Rashid Echesa was arrested over a Sh39 billion fake tender deal to supply the government with military surveillance equipment, guns and ammunition.
There were claims that one of the American merchants keen on the “lucrative” deal had been hosted by Echesa at DP Ruto’s Harambee House Annex Building.
Echesa is a close political ally of the DP.
Just minutes before DCI detectives pounced on him on Thursday, Echesa visited Ruto’s office in the company of two individuals.
Police said Echesa was arrested following a complaint by two gun dealers who claimed he had swindled them Sh11.5 million they had paid as “consultancy fee”.
Police also claimed they had recovered documents bearing government letterheads from Echesa, and that detectives were working to verify their authenticity.
Anti-graft lobby groups are now demanding that associates of the cartels in government should also be brought to book.
“The crooks are not working alone. They work at the behest of senior people in government. It’s the highest level of patronage based corruption. The question is why their associates can’t also be arrested?” posed Suba Churchill, the Coordinator of the National Civil Society Congress.
Echesa was arraigned on Friday at the JKIA court.
According to police investigators who spoke to the Star, the modus operandi of the cartels is luring opulent businessmen with fake “restricted” tenders.
The contract documents leave little room for suspicion as they are complete with government letter heads.
To appear more credible, the crooks present a picture of men and women who have it all.
They drive new luxury cars, wear designer suits costing several thousand dollars and live in palatial homes in high-end neighbourhoods.
They ooze money and influence and they are well-connected in the corridors of power.
Apart from hotel meetings, some are held in government offices to gain the confidence of their targets and to give legitimacy to the fraud.
In December 2019, businessman Charles Gathii opted to contact the police after “a lucrative deal” that was offered to him fell apart.
This was after realising he had been conned of over Sh100 million after a fake award to supply computers to State House and the office of the DP.
According to his statement to the police, Gathii said he was approached by one Douglas Simiyu whose real identity came to be known as Francis Muhanji Mangala and who was masquerading as a Nyati House based National Intelligence Service official.
He narrated how Mangala informed him of a single sourced tender to supply 1,200 pieces of HP laptops, which he claimed were needed at State House for a security project.
He alleged that Mangala took him to an office at State House and later to another on the second floor of Ruto’s Harambee House Annex.
In both instances, he claims, Mangala easily gained access to the protected facilities.
Mangala was later arrested alongside his accomplice, Patricia Mareka, a purported State House official.
The two were arrested and charged.
However, their associates in government who possibly facilitated their movement have never been held to account.
In a similar incident in February last year, police arrested seven men who allegedly conned a Sameer Africa boss out of Sh10 million by pretending to be President Uhuru Kenyatta.
While Mimicking Uhuru’s voice, the suspects are alleged to have called Sameer Africa chairman Naushad Merali, asking him to facilitate the release of the money for the purchase of land.
Believing the caller was indeed the President, he complied
The seven who were arrested and charged in relation to the matter were Joseph Waswa, Duncan Muchai, Isaac Wajekeche, William Simiyu, David Luganya, Gilbert Kirunja and Anthony Wafula.
Then there is the fake gold scam involving United Arab Emirates ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.
In this fraud case, Uhuru, Interior CS Fred Matiang’i and Opposition leaders Raila Odinga’s names were dropped as part of the con tactic to help the UAE leader to have his gold released.
He allegedly paid Sh400 million in bribes to the conmen.
Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang’ula, and flamboyant politician Zaheer Jhanda were adversely named in the matter.
In August 2018, four suspects were arrested after presenting fake documents to a complainant whom they had promised to award a tender worth Sh65 Million.
The four men who were arrested had promised to award the tender to the victim for construction of an administration block for a school in Sultan Hamud.