, NAIROBI, Kenya, May 26 – Runaway petroleum business mogul Yagnesh Devani has been arrested in the UK, two days after British Minister for African Affairs assured Kenya that his country would hunt down the man behind the Sh7.6 billion Triton oil scandal.
Mr Devani was arrested in London Thursday morning, according to officials from British High Commission in Kenya, who said he would face extradition proceedings in court.
"He is being held in custody by the District Judge, City of Westminster Magistrate\’s Court," An official at the UK High Commission in Nairobi John Bradshaw told Capital News.
He added that the court was now expected to fix a hearing date for his extradition trial to face charges in Kenya in relation to the Triton scandal.
London\’s Metropolitan Police Extradition Unit said it arrested Devani – 46 years – at an address in Northwood, northwest London.
"He was arrested on behalf of the Kenyan Authorities on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud. Devani appeared at City of Westminster Magistrates\’ Court on the same day and was remanded in custody."
However sources close to Mr Devani indicated that the businessman would fight to block the extradition. His lawyers in the UK were making frantic efforts to obtain orders from higher courts to stop his removal from Britain.
Although British authorities have termed it purely coincidental, Mr Devani\’s arrest is likely to be interpreted as an exchange between Kenya and the UK which has requested the extradition of Nambale MP Chris Okemo and former Kenya Power and Lighting Company boss Samuel Gichuru over corruption charges.
"It\’s purely a coincidence," a UK government source who spoke to Capital News said.
Mr Okemo and Mr Gichuru are wanted over charges of money laundering in the Island of Jersey.
Mr Devani fled the country in 2007 in the wake of mounting pressure by oil companies following Triton Petroleum\’s failure to make deliveries for oil imports estimated to have been worth 7.6 billion shillings.
Triton had won the tender to import on behalf of other oil companies. The Triton Oil scandal involved the unauthorised release of oil by the Kenya Pipeline Company (KPC) without informing financiers.
A Nairobi court issued a warrant for his arrest and Interpol was directed to pursue him.
On Monday this week, Attorney General Amos Wako had told reporters that Kenya had made several requests to Britain among them the extradition of Mr Devani as well as Bishop Gilbert Deya, who is wanted in the country on various allegations of child thefts.
Mr Wako had noted that Britain had already issued a warrant of arrest for Mr Devani, although it was not clear when it was served.
"I am pleased to inform you that the court in the United Kingdom has issued a warrant of arrest for Devani but as far as Deya is concerned, there are still one or two things to be done before they issue the warrant," he had said.
Last Friday, Interpol issued an international arrest alert against Mr Okemo who served as Energy Minister between 1999 and 2001 before being moved to the Finance docket where he served between 2001 and 2003. The same was also issued on Mr Gichuru who served as the Managing Director for the Kenya Power and Lighting Company between 1983 and 2003.
They are wanted by the UK over crimes committed more than 10 years ago and are accused of abusing their offices by using proxy companies to squander public funds in addition to receiving bribes amounting to hundreds of millions of shillings from international companies between 1999 and 2002.
The amount received in bribes from the companies is pegged at Sh902 million and was paid through various companies.
The Chief Public Prosecutor Keriako Tobiko is due to give his verdict on whether there is a prima facie case to begin extradition process for Mr Okemo and Mr Gichuru.