Of CORRUPTION CURRENTS
The U.S. targeted a high-profile Kenyan businessman-turned-politician when it announced Kingpin Act sanctions late Wednesday.
Among the seven individuals named in the announcement, made via a letter to Congress, was John Harun Mwau, a businessman who reportedly once served as the head of the Kenyan anti-corruption agency and resigned from a trade ministry post in the coalition government in December 2010 a week after being named on a list of alleged drug traffickers in a report to the Kenyan parliament.
Along with the others named in the December report, Mwau was exonerated by a police inquiry issued in February 2011.
The Kenyan Parliament’s website still lists him as member for Kilome, Kenya.
The U.S. Treasury Department, which enforces Kingpin Act sanctions, said Mwau is actively engaged in importing narcotics into Kenya. The Department said it believes he began his involvement in drugs while serving on the police force and traveling overseas to compete in shooting competitions, using the overseas events and policy status to move narcotics.
Mwau couldn’t be reached for comment.
The U.S. had announced in February it planned to help Kenya fight drug trafficking within its borders. Kenya’s main drug problem is heroin trafficking fueled by corruption, Michael Ranneberger, former U.S. ambassador to Kenya, said to the Associated Press in an April interview days before he left his post.
One clue that Mwau was a target could be from a 2006 diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks that cited Kenyan auditor Peter Odhiambo for exposing billions of shillings laundered through Charterhouse Bank (Odhiambo’s former employer) by a group of companies partly owned by Mwau.
Charterhouse was closed amid the investigation but a parliamentary committee cleared it of wrongdoing in December 2010.
The cable referred repeatedly to the dangers Odhiambo faced by revealing the information about the laundering at Charterhouse, and he requested refuge in the U.S., according to the cable. John F. Hoover, the U.S. charge d’affaires who wrote the cable, deemed his story “credible,” writing “we believe he has a well-founded fear of being injured or killed.”
“The perpetrators would most likely be thugs working for John Harun Mwau and his accomplices, but we can’t rule out that corrupt police or security officers would do the job,” the cable read.
Naima Mohamed Nyakiniywa, known as “Mama Lela,” also was sanctioned late Wednesday, for allegedly being the head of one of the largest drug trafficking organizations operating out of Nairobi. She also couldn’t be reached for comment. The AP report cited a Kenyan police spokesman saying she was under surveillance and that officials were checking into reports that she was arrested in Tanzania for drug trafficking.
The action freezes any assets the individuals have under U.S. jurisdiction, and prohibits U.S. persons from doing business with them. Counting Wednesday’s action, the Treasury said 94 foreign persons have been designated for sanctions under the Kingpin Act, which passed in 1999.
Along with Mwau and Nyakiniywa, two individuals from Mexico who are allegedly high-ranking members of the Sinaloa cartel, an Afghan who allegedly owns opium-processing labs and a Kyrgyz criminal leader were sanctioned.
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