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November 15, 2018

Kamlesh Pattni denies arrest in Zimbabwe

Businessman Kamlesh Pattni during an interview at Radio Africa Group offices on November 6, 2018. /EZEKIEL AMING'A
Businessman Kamlesh Pattni during an interview at Radio Africa Group offices on November 6, 2018. /EZEKIEL AMING'A

Controversial businessman Kamlesh Pattni is back in the news.

According to Zimbabwean Police and media reports Pattni was briefly arrested together with his aides while trying to board a plane destined to Dubai a week ago.

He was reportedly carrying millions of dollars.

Zimbabwe police spokeswoman Charity Cheramba confirmed the arrest but declined to comment further.

"Yes he was arrested but was released," she told the Star on telephone yesterday. It was not immediately clear how much Patnni and his entourage were carrying at the time.

But Pattni, who prefers to call himself Brother Paul, denies.

He told the Star in an interview in Nairobi that although he was in Zimbabwe eight days ago, he was neither arrested nor held.

"Vengeance is to God," he said, "if they are peddling lies, it is up to them."

Pattni is the mastermind of the Goldenberg scandal, Kenya's most reported financial scam in which Sh59 billion shillings was alleged to have been lost in fictitious gold exports.

Read: Pattni lawyer defends acquittal

He was also at the center of the tussle over the ownership of duty-free shops at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, which were repossessed by the Kenya Airports Authority in 2012.

Pattni lost the shops on grounds that his lease had expired and the authorities wanted to decongest and upgrade the airport to international standards.

Bogged down by controversy after another, Pattni relocated to Zimbabwe where he established thriving business. He forged ties with among others the influential former Zimbabwean Vice President Joyce Mujuru. 

With Mujuru’s help, Pattni got rights to manage the duty-free shops in Harare.

"I went into business with Mujuru but we parted ways after she failed to pay for the 50 percent stake she was holding. We sued and won the case and ended the partnership," Pattni told the Star yesterday.

Pattni said he now runs duty free shops in Zimbabwe, Kinshasha in DRC and Durban in South Africa.

In July, Pattni’s brother believed to be his right-hand man, Mukesh Mansukhalal Vaya, was reportedly arrested together with three others — Farid Shahadat, Ryan Gregory Joseph and Delny Deanna Ashley — and booked at Borrowdale Police Station in Harare but eventually released. 

Read: Pattni to get Sh7bn for Duty Free shops

Police recovered US$ 4 million (Sh400 million) in cash and 98 kilograms of gold in suitcases in their home in Borrowdale. Police believed they were planning to take the gold bars and money out of Zimbabwe.

The cash was in denomination of US$100, US$50, US$20 and US$10 notes.

"They were released days later and their gold bars and cash returned. However informally we were told they were government agents and partners," a Zimbabwe-based journalist told the Star preferring to remain anonymous.

The three were linked to Suzan General Trading (Suzan) registered as a Dubai-based company by Mukesh.

"No there is nothing. You can come to the office and we discuss," Mukesh said when contacted by the Star to explain his arrest and association with Suzan Trading.

Early last year the company obtained a buying license from Fidelity Printers and Refinery (FPR) to become the sole agent of its gold.

FPR is fully owned by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe. It is a security and gold refinery established in 1966 with facilities in Msasa Industrial area of Harare and coin minting facility is in Bulawayo.

In June, FPR general manager Fredrick Kunaka told reporters that Suzan’s buying license had expired in April. He described Suzan as a small band of gold dealers that brought in USD$16 million to USD $ 20 million monthly in cash to buy bullion from artisanal miners.

"The entity used to buy gold and deliver around five kilogrammes per month prior to the expiry of the license," Kanuka told The Financial Gazette newspaper.

In the arrangement, Mukesh's-owned Africa Duty-Free Investments and Suzan buy gold on the street and deliver it for processing at FPR and another Central Bank-owned company, Aurex (Private) Limited, before exporting value-added jewelry.

"His sympathizers say he had actually helped the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe subsidiary in boosting its gold reserves,” the newspaper said.

Pattni denied any dealings in gold in Zimbabwe but acknowledging that Africa Duty Free Investment was one of their companies engaged in the sale of jewelry at airports.

Mujuru served as vice president from 2004-2014 and vice president of Zanu-PF. She was dethroned from the party and as VP for plotting to oust Mugabe. Following her expulsion from the Zanu-PF, she formed new Zimbabwe People First party, ran for the presidency and lost.

According to Pattni, she was once a business partner at the International Travel Shop but there are no other ties.

Pattni's duty free shops were repossessed in 2012 by the Kenya Airports Authority. He mounted and lost a claim for Sh9.4 billion against KAA on October 8, 2018, after Justice Francis Tuiyot set aside an award that was granted in an arbitration presided over by Justice (Rtd) Edward Torgbor on December 5, 2012.

Pattni had moved to court to seek compensation as well as challenge his eviction arguing it was against the April 27, 1987, agreement that had given him exclusive rights to manage duty-free shops in major airports in Kenya.

More: Pattni seeks Sh55m from state over collapsed bank

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