In mid-February 2021, Kenyan Police arrested two foreigners for obtaining Sh6.4 million from an Australian man, Hwalla Karim on the pretext of selling him gold.
Mr Karim explained to the police how he was conned of the money in a script that has become common on foreigners eager to make quick money by getting cheap gold.
He said he bought gold from Mali in September 2020 but due to a coup that had taken place there, he could not export the consignment as he had anticipated.
It was then that he sought the assistance of Mohammed who had posed as a Malian diplomat in Kenya.
He was introduced to another foreigner identified as Yali Kou who told him he had shipped the one ton of gold to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia but was allegedly detained there by customs officials.
The Australian said at that point Mohammed informed him he would help him to pick the consignment from Addis Ababa to Kenya then to its destination in Beirut, Lebanon.
Later he was told the consignment had reached Nairobi and it needed clearance from Kenyan customs and Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) officials.
This forced the complainant to travel to Nairobi where he was shown the consignment and told to pay USD 64,500 (Sh6.4 million) for the clearance to be done by a local clearing agency.
According to police, he paid in cash to the Burundian national who said he was a director of the said clearing company in the presence of Mohammed at the offices along Diani Road, Nairobi.
“He was given a commitment letter to ship the consignment to Beirut, Lebanon under the escort of the diplomat. He was also given a copy KRA letter for clearance dated 1/7/2020 which he later discovered to be fake,” police said.
The king of gold scams
Thomas Otieno Ngoe aka Tom Ngoe is a lawyer, who specialised in advising foreign companies on investment regulations, sectoral caps and regulatory issues relating to various sectors in Kenya.
Him and his team actively advises and opines on barriers to entry, which include foreign investment regulations, policies, and specific commitments under various trade agreements, customs duty. This is how he easily land himself into unsuspecting foreign investors with interest in gold business. He is the brain behind the cartels that wreaked havoc in the city in the past two years.
Tom Ngoe is a smooth criminal, he even paid to have his images online erased including on LinkedIn where he is supposed to be displaying himself as a professional.
But, other sources indicate that Ngoe is helped by some of the top journalists in the country who are stationed across media houses and are able to maintain his image. He is known to use one senior editor to manage his image in the social media and mainstream media. The man, according to sources, is well paid by Ngoe and his legal colleagues.
According to Directorate of Criminal Intelligence (DCI) officers, the players in the trade, alongside others are said to have been involved in the scam either through ignorance or direct involvement.
Dozens of unsuspecting foreign nationals are being swindled large amounts of money by these fraudsters led by Tom Ngoe.
Ngoe has been mentioned severally in the serial fraud cases of Jared Otieno.
A man linked to the United Arab Emirates royal family is alleged to have been conned by a group that includes, among others, Bungoma senator Moses Wetang’ula, Zaheer Jhanda and Jared Otieno.
After that, several cases came up including a famous arrest this year that exposed his expensive lifestyle with little or no known income channel.
On his part, Ngoe who has already testified in court in a case, is said to have received the cash on behalf of a foreign buyer who was prospecting for business in the country. The buyer to open an escrow account approached him, according to details in the newspapers last year.
This was a deal involving a foreigner and gold seller known as Samir Munyinyi and his associate, Anthony Kanga. And it was 360kgs of gold.
In this deal, the investors were required to pay USD 100,000 for export taxes while the lawyer, Ngoe, would retain 5kgs of gold as collateral. “We paid 100,000 dollars for taxes and 10,000 dollars as fee for Otieno,” the foreigner said.
Ngoe would then create an escrow account where payments were done through a bank transfer from the foreigner’s company to the escrow account.
Later, one of the foreigner’s workers, Razia Chelimo informed him that she had discovered that Otieno was not registered as an advocate. “We confronted him and he explained to us that he was a lawyer but he was not practicing,” he said.
“We insisted that we wanted to accompany him to the bank but he refused saying it wasn’t necessary and after a few days, Munyinyi came up with another problem. He said he could not get export licence for the consignment and therefore needed another USD 100,000 to solve the problem,” he said.
In the mid-February incident, Director of Criminal Investigations boss George Kinoti urged Embassies and High Commissions to advise their nationals coming in for business Kenya doesn’t hold any huge consignments of gold.
“The gold scam has now reached alarming levels as unsuspecting foreign nationals are being swindled large amounts of money by fraudsters,” he said.