Blood gold probe zeroes in on 11 firms

March 8, 2011 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya Mar 8 – Detectives investigating the disappearance of gold worth Sh8b smuggled from the Democratic Republic of Congo have now zeroed in on 11 local and international companies that may be involved in a wider syndicate.

Sources close to the investigation told Capital News some of the companies are registered in Kenya while others are registered in the United Arab Emirates and South Africa and operate in minerals and petroleum.

Two of the firms under investigations have been handling clearing and forwarding transactions for international businessmen and companies and are believed to have handled business dealings for smugglers of the stolen gold, our sources said.

Two others are mining companies whose directors are assisting the detectives to understand the movement of gold and other precious metals because they have been doing such business for a long time now.

"We have the list of the 11 companies which we are trying to scrutinize.  We have been able to contact a few individuals connected to them but there are cases where other companies are registered under proxies," one officer involved in the investigations which is being undertaken jointly with officials from DRC said.

Police officers spent hours on Tuesday carrying out searches at the Registrar of companies at Sheria House and said they would return there on Wednesday to accomplish the task.

Kenya has already asked the International Police (Interpol) to help them investigate the mysterious disappearance of the gold which has soured diplomatic relations between Kenya and the DRC.

CID Director Ndegwa Muhoro confirmed on Monday evening that they had formally asked Interpol to assist unravel the mystery behind the disappearance of the precious metal that went missing from the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi.

Police believe the gold smuggled from the DRC was en-route to South Africa or Dubai at the time it disappeared, and want international police in the two countries to aid probe how the gold was shipped and its final destination.

Kenya and the DRC have launched a joint investigation on the smuggled gold following last week\’s visit to Nairobi by DRC President Joseph Kabila who led a high powered delegation seeking to know the truth about the precious metal stolen from the central African country.

Last week, Internal Security Minister Professor George Saitoti told a media conference that detectives from both teams had already interrogated several unnamed suspects over the gold syndicate but he did not provide further details.

Capital News independently established that those interrogated so far are eight suspects including customs officials and police officers based at entry and exit points including at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi.

The probe is made complex due to the fact that already a senior assistant commissioner at the Kenya Revenue Authority Joseph Cheptarus who was also involved in the investigations was gunned down outside his home in South \’C\’ estate a week ago.

The gold is said to have been smuggled from illegal minefields in the DRC and mysteriously disappeared at the JKIA, before Kenya Revenue Authority officials even knew what had been shipped in.

It is believed officials in the DRC blew the cover after they began tracing the suspicious movement of the precious cargo only to learn that it could not be traced.

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