Kenya, DRC jointly probe illicit gold trade

March 3, 2011 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya Mar 3 – Kenya and the Democratic Republic of Congo will now carry out a joint probe into an illegal gold trade between the two countries, following the mysterious disappearance of gold worth Sh8 billion in Nairobi, that was smuggled from Kinshasa.

The teams carrying out the meticulous investigation were on Thursday ordered to expedite the probe and ensure perpetrators are brought to book, as well as end the illegal trade that has left a senior Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) official murdered.

President Joseph Kabila of the DRC jetted into Nairobi early on Thursday and headed straight into a meeting with President Kibaki at Harambee House.  The talks were attended by the country\’s top security chiefs, led by Police Commissioner Mathew Iteere and CID Director Ndegwa Muhoro.

Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Internal Security Minister George Saitoti was also present at the high-level meeting that lasted nearly two hours.

Mr Kabila was accompanied to the meeting by the DRC\’s Minister for Regional Cooperation Raymond Tshibanda and the Minister for Mines Martin Kabwelulu among others.

The DRC leader refused to speak to journalists on arrival at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) and at Harambee House, where the meeting took place.  When they emerged from the talks, the two leaders went their separate ways.

A dispatch from the Presidential Press Service later said the talks had centred on the illegal gold trade.

"The governments of Kenya and the Democratic Republic of Congo have established a joint team to investigate alleged trade in illegal gold. The team will work closely with the teams in the two countries that had already begun investigations on alleged trade in illegal gold," the statement said but did not make reference to any specific incident.

Sources within the security forces told Capital News that President Kibaki had earlier met Police Commissioner Mr Iteere and Muhoro before the talks with President Kabila.

It is understood the police chiefs briefed the President on the extent of the investigation into the missing Sh8 billion gold and the murder of the KRA official who was at the centre of the probe.

Mr Iteere earlier in the week told journalists he had ordered the CID to thoroughly investigate the official\’s murder and present him with a report as soon as possible.

"The matter will be investigated in a manner that will give confidence to KRA staff and other public officers that they can diligently perform their duties without the fear of those determined to break the law," Iteere said.

He also warned against any form of speculation on the cause of the murder that had been declared a "normal robbery incident" by some of the police officers who arrived at the scene soon after it occurred on Saturday night.

The KRA official Joseph Cheptarus, 40, was murdered in cold blood by unknown assailants who accosted him as he arrived at his home in the city\’s South C estate.

The thugs had earlier abducted his guards before they lay in wait for the KRA official who was shot several times and died at the Mater Hospital, hours later.

Police sources privy to the investigation into the murder revealed that they had linked the killing into the "sensitive investigation of gold smuggling he was undertaking jointly with other security personnel based at the Customs department at the JKIA." 

"We are still investigating the murder, and so far we have every reason to link the killing into the case he was handling at the KRA on the gold smuggling," a senior officer probing the murder said. "We are pursuing links that is likely to get us the killers but so far, no suspect has been arrested."

Informed sources have told Capital News the investigation into the gold smuggling syndicate is "very complex because it involves influential businessmen and others with ties to top government officials."

"As much as we are being pushed to ensure thorough investigations into this case, there is little that can be done, considering those involved. It is a wait and see situation," a detective with knowledge of the ongoing probe said.

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