Kenya: The secret deals of ODM power men


The secret deals of ODM power men

Photo|FILE  Former aide paints the picture of Prime Minister Raila Odinga as a billionaire at the head of a fast-expanding regional empire.

Photo|FILE Former aide paints the picture of Prime Minister Raila Odinga as a billionaire at the head of a fast-expanding regional empire.

Prime Minister Raila Odinga is a billionaire with interests spanning several continents and a business portfolio that has grown significantly since he entered the Grand Coalition, according to his former aide.

Mr Miguna Miguna, the PM’s former advisor for coalition affairs, claims in his new book that Mr Odinga has steadily built up his personal wealth over the past five years, cutting deals with regional leaders and some businessmen with questionable backgrounds in fields ranging from mining concessions in the DRC to oil deals in Uganda.

Mr Miguna also asserts in his explosive new memoirs, Peeling Back the Mask: A Quest for Justice in Kenya, that some of Mr Odinga’s closest aides have become enormously wealthy since the PM took office.

“I walked into Raila’s office with Caroli Omondi just before 8am one Wednesday morning in April 2011. There was something important I wanted the three of us to discuss.

“The previous day, I had visited Hon. (Dr) Sally Kosgei in her Ministry of Agriculture office at Kilimo House. What she had disclosed had shocked me.

“Dr Kosgei had informed me that she had heard that Caroli had purchased Heron (Court) Hotel, a three-star facility in Nairobi.

“Her information was that Caroli had purchased the hotel for between Sh800 million to Sh1 billion. Many might ask why I found that shocking. Well, Caroli happened to be Raila’s private secretary.

Officially, Caroli was the Principal Administration Secretary for the Office of the Prime Minister. His take home pay was less than Sh300,000.

“By April 2009, Caroli had worked for the OPM for exactly two years. Even if he was saving 90 per cent of his net income — an impossible feat in any society — he would still not have saved Sh800m within two years.”

Neither Dr Sally Kosgei nor Mr Omondi could be reached for comment on Tuesday and none responded to text messages sent to their mobile phones.

Mr Omondi is reputed to have been an independently wealthy property owner even before 2007 and housed the Raila Odinga Campaign Headquarters in one of his Upper Hill premises.

Mr Odinga, according to Mr Miguna, took a relaxed attitude to queries about the alleged financial impropriety by officials within his office.

Writes Miguna: “Jakom, hear what Miguna is saying…that people are saying that I bought Heron Court,” Caroli started as soon as we sat down around a small coffee table.

“He was laughing. He didn’t wait for me to introduce the subject. I also noticed the casual and joking manner Caroli was approaching the issue, which I found unnerving.

“‘Hmmm…hmmm…hmmm, is that so?” (Mr Odinga said) “Miguna, what’s wrong if Caroli bought Heron Court, hmm? What’s wrong with that?

“What’s wrong with Luos? Why are they talking too much, hmm? Who told them not to make money?’ Raila dismissed me even before I could open my mouth.”

The deals Mr Miguna describes run the gamut from oil money to mineral concessions in southern Africa to others involving a subsidised maize scheme which was subsequently found to have been abused by officials, costing taxpayers hundreds of millions of shillings.

Mr Miguna links Mr Odinga to controversial South African tycoon Antònio Texeira, the chairman of Petroplus Africa, who is associated with the Branch Energy and Executive Outcomes private security-cum-paramilitary firms that have been criticised for their work in war zones such as the diamond fields of Sierra Leone.

“By April 2009, Caroli had worked for the OPM for exactly two years. Even if he was saving 90 per cent of his net income — an impossible feat in any society — he would still not have saved Sh800m within two years.”

Neither Dr Sally Kosgei nor Mr Omondi could be reached for comment on Tuesday and none responded to text messages sent to their mobile phones.

Mr Omondi is reputed to have been an independently wealthy property owner even before 2007 and housed the Raila Odinga Campaign Headquarters in one of his Upper Hill premises.

Mr Odinga, according to Mr Miguna, took a relaxed attitude to queries about the alleged financial impropriety by officials within his office.

Writes Miguna: “Jakom, hear what Miguna is saying…that people are saying that I bought Heron Court,” Caroli started as soon as we sat down around a small coffee table.

“He was laughing. He didn’t wait for me to introduce the subject. I also noticed the casual and joking manner Caroli was approaching the issue, which I found unnerving.

“‘Hmmm…hmmm…hmmm, is that so?” (Mr Odinga said) “Miguna, what’s wrong if Caroli bought Heron Court, hmm? What’s wrong with that?

“What’s wrong with Luos? Why are they talking too much, hmm? Who told them not to make money?’ Raila dismissed me even before I could open my mouth.”

The deals Mr Miguna describes run the gamut from oil money to mineral concessions in southern Africa to others involving a subsidised maize scheme which was subsequently found to have been abused by officials, costing taxpayers hundreds of millions of shillings.

Mr Miguna links Mr Odinga to controversial South African tycoon Antònio Texeira, the chairman of Petroplus Africa, who is associated with the Branch Energy and Executive Outcomes private security-cum-paramilitary firms that have been criticised for their work in war zones such as the diamond fields of Sierra Leone.

Those contacts, which Mr Odinga acquired while he was minister for Energy, subsequently helped Mr Texeira buy the controlling stake in one of the Odingas flagship firms, Spectre International.

“Then of course, are Raila’s (and through him, Caroli’s) “connections” to Rupiah Banda, President of Zambia from 2008 to 2011. Caroli frequently boasted to me of their grandiose investments in the copper fields of Zambia.

“So thick were the connections that Raila sent Orengo and someone else to Zambia on the day Zambians voted in the September 2011 presidential elections.”

Mr Miguna was a senior aide in Mr Odinga’s office until he was suspended by the PM in August. His new memoirs offer insights into the behind-the-scenes intrigues at the highest levels of the coalition government.

But some have questioned Mr Miguna’s motives for writing the book. Mr Odinga’s spokesman, Dennis Onyango, said the PM will issue a comprehensive rejoinder to the book later in the week.

Some of the issues examined by Mr Miguna are the question of the methods used by politicians to raise funds for their campaigns and some of the deals they strike once they get into office.

Mr Miguna tells of an alleged deal between Mr Odinga and Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni, two men who have uneasy ties but, if Mr Miguna is to be believed, have shared business interests.

“On another occasion, Caroli talked to me – and I also heard him speaking on the telephone – about an oil deal involving Raila, Museveni and some “powerful men around Museveni”.

Some of my Kenyan readers might recall that Raila made a sudden trip to Uganda and met Museveni at State House, Entebbe, around mid-2009.

The agenda of the visit wasn’t publicly disclosed. During that visit Raila and Museveni purportedly agreed to work together in order to process and sell the oil currently being produced from Lake Albert in Uganda.

Initially, Museveni was keen to construct a brand new refinery in Uganda to handle the production but Caroli informed me that Raila had managed to convince Museveni that it would be ‘cheaper and more profitable to do it in Mombasa’.

Now obviously many people would say that Raila was only doing this for the economic good of Kenya. That’s possible. Why, for example, was the Ministry of Energy not involved in the discussions? Why was Caroli – Raila’s Private Secretary – deeply involved in the discussions?”

Mr Miguna also claims that another international businessman, Lee Jang-Soon of South Korea, “invested heavily” in Mr Odinga in the 2002 and 2007 elections.

Mr Miguna claims that it is Mr Texeira who gave Mr Odinga the distinctive black helicopter, together with its pilot and mechanical crew in the 2002 election campaigns.

Conflict of interest

He claimed that Mr Odinga’s business ties with Mr Texeira presented a serious conflict of interest because after the 2002 election, he became Energy minister and was friends with a businessman who wanted to invest in the sector.

Mr Texeira’s A1 Grand Prix series company, he claims, collapsed as a result of his heavy investment in Mr Odinga. The A1 Grand Prix Series was founded by Sheikh Maktoum Hasher Maktoum of Dubai to rival the Formula 1 Series.

But it collapsed after only a few seasons after the billionaire sheikh sold out to a group led by Mr Texeira. The South Korean contributed money to Mr Odinga’s campaign in 2007, Mr Miguna claims, but the funds did not reach the campaign and were pocketed by an aide.

Mr Miguna writes that Mr Odinga was introduced to Mr Texeira by another businessman, Tanzanian Ali Ahmed Said of Tanganyika Investment and Oil transport company.

It was Mr Said, he says, who organised the shipment of maize from South Africa to Kenya some of which was subsequently found to be bad.

The Kenya Bureau of Standards, which inspected the maize, declared it unfit for human consumption and wanted it returned to South Africa but the importers resisted this decision.

Mr Miguna also claims that Mr Omondi and OPM permanent secretary, Dr Mohammed Isahakia, who were suspended to pave way for investigations into the maize scandal, were never really on suspension.

The two were cleared and reinstated. Dr Isahakia was unavailable for comment. But while on suspension, claims Miguna, they were allowed unlimited access to their offices almost every day and were paid full salaries.

Then Agriculture minister William Ruto, who was accused of issuing the allotment letters to his friends and political associates, survived a censure motion in Parliament over the scandal.

Mr Ruto, who has since left ODM after falling out with Mr Odinga, maintained then that the genesis of the scandal was in the PM’s office.

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Posted on July 13, 2012, in Categorized and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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