Fresh probe into Kenya supermarket claims

July 28, 2009 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 28 – Police on Tuesday said they were investigating three fresh cases of alleged false compensation claims that were filed following the Nakumatt fire tragedy in January.

A senior police officer at the Central police station told Capital News that the suspects could face charges in court once the probe was finalised.

“We are getting overwhelming evidence on these new cases. The suspects are cooperating with us and we hope to conclude the investigations in due course,” a senior police officer who cannot be named because he is not allowed to speak to the media said.

He said two of them were questioned last week while the third was grilled early on Tuesday.

“It is just a matter of time. We are compiling evidence and talking to some of their relatives and other government agencies,” the source said.

He could not divulge more details or names of the suspects “because it will jeopardise investigations that are currently going on.”

On Monday, a man police identified as Yusuf Hassan Mwarari was charged in court for allegedly obtaining Sh100,000 in a false claim after he lied that his son was among people who were burned to death when the supermarket chain’s Downtown branch caught fire seven months ago.

The deceased son’s name was given as Hassan Kijonga whom police later discovered had died of illness some five years ago.

The three cases that are now under investigations raises fears there were many more people who may have pocketed large sums of money in false compensation claims.

“It is turning out to be a big scandal, we want to get to the bottom of it,” another police officer involved in the probe said.

During the Monday court proceedings, the man who allegedly claimed false compensation was presented before Nairobi Chief Magistrate Gilbert Mutembei but he denied obtaining money by false pretences and was released on a cash bail of Sh50,000 pending his trial on August 20.

The man had presented himself to forensics experts who declared that his DNA samples matched those of human remains collected from the fire site.

The DNA was carried out by Biotech Forensics Ltd, a private firm which was contracted by Nakumatt Holdings to help in the identification process.

The firm’s Managing Director Lynn Farah told Capital News they carried out DNA tests on the man and had positive results but would not comment further.

“The man is among the Nakumatt customers who presented himself and his samples did match that of one of the body remains. I am not aware of this latest development,” Ms Farah said when reached on telephone on Monday.

Police launched investigations into the matter when the man’s relative went to them last week and sought to clarify that the son they had reported dead during the Nakumatt fire tragedy, had actually passed away after falling ill in 2004.

“We are in possession of a death certificate and medical receipts and it shows the said son died five years ago,” a senior police officer who requested to remain anonymous said.

Alfred Ng’ang’a, the Group Account Manager for Ogilvy Public Relations which coordinates communications for Nakumatt Holdings told Capital News that “the man was among customers who received Sh100,000 which was paid to families whose relatives were burned to death in the January inferno.”

“According to my records, Mr Yusuf Hassan Mwarari reported the death of his son Hassan Kijonga in the Downtown tragedy. He duly followed the processes including DNA testing,” he said in response to an e-mail from Capital News.
Mr Ng’ang’a said Mr Mwarari qualified to receive the Sh100,000 for funeral expenses “upon filing the requisite documents with the Ministry of Special Programmes.”

He clarified that the Sh100, 000 paid to the Nakumatt customers was not compensation but just “a donation towards funeral expenses.”

Compensation was to be paid to the families by the Insurer but it remained unclear if that was paid to them.

Special Programmes Minister Naomi Shaban said “if that is the case, it is so unfortunate. But I am not in a position to comment on this issue because I do not have all the details.”

Up to 40 people were reported missing during the Nakumatt fire tragedy but only remains of 27 people were positively identified through DNA tests.

They include five Nakumatt staff who died in the supermarket fire.



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