Opposition leader Raila Odinga Friday spilt the beans over the fake-gold scandal only hours after police seized a lorry suspected to be carrying the “mineral” at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA).
Speaking in Kisii County, Mr Odinga revealed that he had travelled to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and met its ruler Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum in Dubai over the scam, which has sucked in the names of President Uhuru Kenyatta and Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i.
“I told the royal ruler that the voice he heard on phone was not that of the minister. I know Matiang’i’s voice and the callers were simply using it to advance their agenda,” said Mr Odinga.
“Matiang’i is as clean as a whistle on this fake-gold saga. Leave him alone,” he added.
Mr Odinga spoke on the eve of fellow opposition leader Moses Wetang’ula’s return to Kenya from an official trip to Hong Kong.
Mr Wetang’ula has been adversely mentioned in the saga after an audio tape was circulated in which someone who sounds like him was heard assuring a member of the Saudi royal family that all was well following the intervention of President Kenyatta, Mr Odinga and Dr Matiang’i and that the gold would be delivered to him.
Mr Wetang’ula is expected to arrive this afternoon after a week-long stay in Hong Kong on official Senate duties.
Director of Criminal Investigations (DCI) George Kinoti is on record stating that the Bungoma senator is a person of interest in the scandal and would be interrogated to shed light on it.
This came as police intercepted more fake gold in a lorry that was trying to escape an operation by detectives at JKIA.
Investigators have been camping at JKIA for the past three days trying to establish if Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) employees are working in cahoots with fraudsters, who have turned the country’s gateway to the world into a haven for criminals.
JKIA is one of the country’s most secure installations and is accorded high security priority by the Ministry of Interior based on its Category One status.
But on Thursday evening, detectives confirmed their fears about lawlessness at the airport when, in the process of a security operation, they intercepted a lorry ferrying suspicious metal boxes out of the airport.
On being questioned, the driver of the Mitsubishi Canter registration number KCH 527T told police that he was ferrying cargo from the airport but declined to say what he was carrying.
The lorry, which we have established belongs to a Dorcas Wanjira Theuri, was then driven under tight police escort to the DCI headquarters.
KAA Managing director Jonny Andersen refused to comment on the investigations or the fake-gold discovery.
“This is an ongoing investigation by the DCI and we cannot comment on it,” he said.
But addressing mourners in Kisii, Mr Odinga, who had just arrived from South Sudan on Friday, claimed he was the whistleblower in the scam and assured the public that investigators were getting to the bottom of the matter.
He said Dr Matiang’i should be left alone and those responsible be held personally accountable given that they are already known.
He said people against the minister are fighting him simply because he has been doing his job as the man in charge of the country’s security.
“They are now tying him with chains to slow him down. We know them, but they will not succeed,” he said.
While vindicating Dr Matiang’i, Mr Odinga said he had worked for many years with the Interior CS and described him as hardworking person of high integrity.
“There are lies being spread about our son Matiang’i. He once worked in my office and I know him,” said Mr Odinga.
It is said that one of the fraudsters masqueraded as the Interior minister as they tried to con their victim, Mr Ali Zandi, who lost Sh400 million in the scam.
Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Noordin Haji had directed Inspector-General of Police Hillary Mutyambai to furnish him with a report by the end of Saturday on investigations into the scandal that has raised temperatures in the country.
The IG, who led a tree-planting event at the Police Dog Unit headquarters on Friday, avoided questions by journalists on the status of the investigations and whether he has handed over the file to the DPP as directed.
“Today is not the day to talk about that matter,” he said.
But sources familiar with the matter have told the Saturday Nation that the National Police Service is likely to seek more time in order to tie up the loose ends of the investigations before deciding on whether to propose the individuals behind the scam for prosecution.
Despite the ongoing investigations, however, politicians allied to Deputy President William Ruto have been demanding the resignation of Dr Matiang’i, saying he should come out clean on the matter.
On Friday, politicians from his Kisii backyard — who had accompanied Mr Odinga to a funeral for David Ombati, who was Jaramogi Oginga Odinga’s personal doctor — came to the defence of their “son”.
Kisii Senator Sam Ongeri said: “Our son Matiang’i should be left alone. Who has even seen the fake gold he is being linked to? We do not support such kind of blackmail.”
Kitutu Chache South MP Richard Onyonka, who also announced he had decamped from the Tangatanga movement associated with DP Ruto, said the Abagusii community had resolved to fight any efforts to impeach Dr Matiang’i.
“We know those fighting our son are a directionless lot. We are not scared of them and we are prepared to face them,” he said.