President Obama yesterday signed an
executive order freezing all assets of Kilome MP Harun Mwau for alleged drug trafficking. The order, issued under the US Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act or the King Pin Act, was also extended to the Kenyan businesswoman Naima Mohammed Nyakinyua, who is already serving a jail sentence in Tanzania for trafficking in drugs.
Mwau and Nyakinyua now join the US list of top seven drug traffickers around the world. The others are Manuel Torres Felix and
Gonzalo Inzunza Inzunza from Mexico; Haji Lal Jan Ishaqzai from Afghanistan;
Kamchybek Asanbekovich Kolbayev from Kyrgyzstan and Javier Antonio Calle Serna from Colombia.
The decision to freeze the assets of the suspected drug traffickers was made on the recommendation of the US Treasury Department and based on inter-agency, intelligence reports and public information. The Kenya government was notified of the decision before the statement was released, the US Public Affairs counselor John Haynes said.
By issuing the order, Obama bars US citizens and or companies from conducting
financial or commercial transactions with Mwau and Nyakinywa, their companies or anyone associated with them. Any assets that the two hold under US jurisdiction are also frozen.
Mwau and Nyakinywa are also barred from entering the US. These sanctions also extend to family members or anyone who has benefitted from proceeds of the illegal trade. "They have been added to the Department of the Treasury’s
sanctions list (formally known as the list of Specially Designated Nationals
and Blocked Persons or SDN list).This
action underscores the President’s commitment to target the world’s top
narcotics traffickers and their organizations, particularly their financial
infrastructures," said Haynes.
Attempts to get a comment from Mwau yesterday were fruitless as he did not pick up his phone. He has many times in the past emphatically denied involvement in drug trafficking or drug dealing whenever such allegations have been made. The wealthy businessman once headed the Kenya Anti-Corruption agency.
Until his resignation in December last year, Mwau was an assistant minister for Trade. He resigned from his ministerial position to allow investigations to be carried out over drugs reports about him. Justice and Constitutional
Affairs minister Mutula Kilonzo described Obama’s action as "an embarrassment to
Mutula said Obama’s statement
was "a slap in the face" of the Kenya police and other institutions which had failed to unearth any evidence of drug trafficking
in the country. “It’s a shame that the
police and even Parliament cleared an individual who is being listed now as an
international drug lord,” Mutula added.
He suggested that the US government should hand over to Kenya the evidence it has on on drug trafficking in Kenya to facilitate investigations and possible arrests and prosecutions.
Mutula said the sanctions cannot be extended to assets Mwau holds in Kenya unless there is a formal request from the US or adequate information and evidence that could lead to a successful prosecution here. Under the Anti-Drug Trafficking Act, assets considered to have been acquired through drug trafficking are forfeited to the state. Mutula said the government would carefully study and interpret the Obama order.
Responding to suggestions that the order was issued by the US because drug trafficking investigations locally were done in a shoddy manner, Police Commissioner Mathew Iteere said such investigations are a complex matter and take time.
He said the recent investigations the police conducted had failed to produce any evidence to convict four MPs who were named in Parliament as being involved in drug trafficking. “Drug trafficking is not as
simple as an assault case where you can piece up evidence easily. It is a complicated
matter which takes time,” the commissioner said.
The four MPs were named in Parliament by Internal security minister George Saitoti after MPs demanded that he identify who US ambassador Michael Ranneberger had referred to while speaking at a function in Mombasa.
Saitoti tabled the report which had been compiled by the US anti-narcotics agency and which had been presented to the government for action.
The report named Mwau, Kisauni MP Hassan Joho, Makadara MP Gideon Mike Sonko Mbuvi, Juja MP William Kabogo
and Mombasa businessman Ali Punjani.
After the police cleared them of involvement in drug trafficking, the MPs accused Saitoti of playing games and demanded that he apologise and clear their names.
In April, Mwau sued Ranneberger for linking him to narcotic drug
trafficking and accused the diplomat of manufacturing criminal offences against him. Mwau wants his name deleted from the report Ranneberger submitted to the government and from any other government record.