Kamlesh Pattni is one of the most talked about personalities, but little is known about his true persona.
Controversial businessman Kamlesh Pattni, alias Brother Paul is back in the limelight, and as what has become synonymous with him, for all the wrong reasons.
This time, Pattni is entangled in a multi-billion land dispute with the family of former spymaster the late James Kanyotu.
The Goldenberg scam architect has claimed ownership of a 500-acre parcel of land in Thika town estimated to be worth Sh10 billion.
Through his firm Marriot Africa International Ltd, he says the firm bought the prime property from Trendsetters Investments Ltd, who purchased it from Kangaita Coffee Estate Ltd – a firm associated with the Moi-era spy chief – for Sh700 million in 2011.
Filings tabled in court on Monday revealed that Pattni is the face behind Marriot Africa International and Trendsetters Investments.
This looks set to offer a rare peek at the business dealings between Pattni, who in recent years has stayed out of the limelight, and the secretive Kanyotu who was estimated to be over Sh20 billion.
Pattni and Kanyotu had close business relations and were charged over the Sh5.8 billion Goldenberg scandal in which taxpayers lost money through a scheme to supposedly re-export gold and diamonds, which proved fictitious.
Court filings by Willy Kihara, one of Kanyotu’s sons, reveal that Marriot Africa International and Trendsetters Investments are one and the same entity, owned and controlled by Kamlesh Pattni.
Pattni is not new to controversy ranging from cross-border shady business dealings to an insatiable appetite for big money and land grab.
Kamlesh Pattni is also sucked in an intricate land fraud case pitting him and the family of freedom fighter the late Fred Kubai, The Informer can reveal.
In a damning petition received by the National Assembly Clerk in late March 2017, the Kubai family accused Pattni of fraudulently dispossessing them of the land occupying International Casino on Museum Hill Nairobi associated with the tycoon.
Kubai family laid claim to the land from 1967 until 2008 when the lease of the property was irregularly transferred to Galaxy Walker Limited, a firm linked to Pattni and Ketan Somaia.
The Directorate of Criminal Investigations and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions have been working jointly with the United Kingdom Central Authority on mutual legal assistance and understanding to assist obtain evidence on how Somaia was able to transfer Kubai’s shares to Patti’s entity without their consent.
“Kindly the family of the late Fred Kubai would like to petition the Parliamentary Committee on Land to help recover a prime property on Museum Hill. The family has held the lease of the property from 1967 to 2008 when the lease was transferred to Galaxy Walker Limited associated with Kamlesh Pattni.” The petition read in part.
Kubai family owns the land through their company Tourist Paradise Limited incorporated in 1967.
“We did establish that the companies associated with Kamlesh Pattni did not have the documents to support the transfers which are receipts of stamp duty, approval for change of use, and consent to transfer to claim to be bona fide owners of the property.” The petition drawn by Andrew Kubai, son of the late freedom fighter says.
The appeal addressed to the then Lands Committee chairman Alex Mwiru was received on March 23, 2017, at the National Assembly main records unit.
Investigations by The Informer established seven years ago, the Kubai family petitioned the National Land Commission (NLC) chairman Muhammad Swazuri through the Commission on Administrative Justice, Office of the Ombudsman for determination of the legitimate owner vide a letter reference number Our Ref: CAJ/P.E/040/170/2013/VOL.1/RS.
Andrew Kubai forwarded the complaint to the Ombudsman office on May 31, 2013, seeking intervention in a land dispute.
“The commission is of the view that the National Land Commission is best suited to inquire into this matter and hereby, forward the complaint and supporting documentation for your further necessary action.” Former CAJ chairman Otiende Amollo told Swazuri through a correspondence dated July 16, 2013.
Kamlesh Pattni and Somaia were featured in the Goldenberg scandal in Kenya during the 1990s. Somaia has since been convicted by a UK court over 19.5 million US Dollars in fraud.
The Goldenberg scam centered on a company called Goldenberg International which claimed to be selling Kenyan gold and diamonds to companies abroad.
To encourage exports the government at the time paid Goldenberg bonuses for foreign sales.
Kamlesh Goldenberg scandal
Since the 1990s, Pattni has cultivated close ties with several leaders all over Africa and was quick to boast of that proximity while speaking with Al Jazeera’s reporters.
He showed them photos of himself with former Libyan President Muammar Gadaffi, former Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, and ex-Kenyan presidents Daniel Arap Moi and Mwai Kibaki.
His rise to power started in his home country Kenya — at a tailor’s shop in Nairobi. At a time when Western sanctions were strangling the country’s economy in the 1990s, Pattni told our reporters that he bumped into the East African nation’s head of intelligence while looking for a suit.
He offered to bring in revenue in exchange for gold. Pattni claimed the intelligence officer took him to meet President Arap Moi.
Pattni’s company, Goldenberg International, was granted an exclusive licence to export Kenyan gold, but instead, he allegedly smuggled gold from what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo.
That gold was then sold abroad, while Pattni’s company allegedly charged the government a 35 percent commission. He told our reporters he was an “adviser” to Arap Moi, who was under growing domestic and international scrutiny over his refusal to allow multi-party elections.
“In 1992, there was a lot of fights, riots in the street and they wanted [a] multi-party [system],” Pattni said. “We advised just make it multi-party because ‘the money is with you, you will still win [the election].’”
“I help[ed] the president to survive.”
After Arap Moi eventually left office in 2002, Pattni was charged with several counts of fraud in a court case that would drag on for more than a decade.
Arap Moi and many members of his government were also implicated in the scandal and were accused of receiving bribes from Pattni and his aides. But Pattni was eventually acquitted — and no one has been convicted for the scam.
When asked to explain the revelations emerging from Al Jazeera’s investigation, Pattni denied any criminal wrongdoing in Kenya and emphasized that he had never been convicted concerning his activities in that country.
He denied involvement in any kind of money laundering, as well as employing anyone to smuggle cash or offering to deal with funds he knew originated from illegal sources.
Kamlesh Pattni Gold smuggler now in Zimbabwe, Al Jazeera reports
A gold smuggler implicated in a scandal that robbed Kenya of 10 percent of its GDP in the 1990s has moved his smuggling operation to Zimbabwe and Dubai, Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit (I-Unit) can reveal.
Kamlesh Pattni was involved in the so-called Goldenberg scam, a gold smuggling operation that robbed Kenya of $600mn and led to charges of corruption against many members of then President Daniel Arap Moi’s government. After years of prosecution, Pattni was acquitted.
Pattni, who later became a self-proclaimed pastor and sometimes goes by the name Brother Paul, is now running a similar scheme in Zimbabwe from his base of operations in Dubai.
The revelation is part of Al Jazeera’s Gold Mafia, a four-part series investigating some of Southern Africa’s largest gold smugglers and money launderers.
Undercover Al Jazeera reporters pretending to be Chinese criminals were offered several options by Pattni to launder more than $100mn.
He would do this by effectively turning the dirty money into gold that is exported from Zimbabwe to Dubai, where Pattni owns several gold-trading companies.
Pattni exports gold bars and jewelry from Zimbabwe through his company Suzan General Trading, which gets paid an incentive by the government to sell gold overseas.
The plan Pattni suggested would mean the dirty money, in US dollars, would be flown to Harare, where it would be declared as the proceeds of the gold exported by Suzan General Trading.
That money is then used to buy more gold in Zimbabwe, which would then be exported to one of Pattni’s Dubai-based companies.
Owning both the exporter in Zimbabwe and the importer in Dubai allows Pattni to launder the money, which would then be paid into a Dubai bank account and would appear to come from legitimate gold trade. Pattni himself would take a 10 percent commission.
During the secretly recorded conversations with Al Jazeera reporters, Pattni claimed that the country’s president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, was aware of his gold-smuggling and money laundering operations.
When asked about Mnangagwa’s involvement, Pattni said: “He knows of course, yes. But he can’t, he will not talk too openly.”
“When you work you must always have the king with you, the president.”
Pattni showed several WhatsApp conversations he allegedly had with Mnangagwa, adding that “he has to be informed”.
The scheme helps Zimbabwe secure large amounts of US dollars, a hard currency the country can then use on its internal and international markets at a time when its own currency has lost much of its global standing because of hyperinflation.
He said that when he met with Al Jazeera’s undercover team, he thought he was meeting with an investor who wanted to buy a stake in hotel businesses and “to divest of a portfolio in China into gold buying and mining in Zimbabwe”.