Politics and Drugs: The Johos Brothers

A report issued in 2010 by the U.S. Embassy in Kenya and cited in Parliament by then Internal Security Minister George Saitoti says that MPs Joho, William Kabogo, John Harun Mwau, Gideon Mbuvi and Mombasa tycoon Ali Punjani, are among the most dangerous drug traffickers in the country. The document is also signed by then U.S. ambassador Michael Ranneberger.

The report describes how Abubakar Joho and his brother Ali Hassan are in charge of a multi-million euro trafficking empire.

Abubarak is the first one of the two to enter the drug trade. In the early ‘90s he begins working in a clearing and forwarding company and later finds a new position in the vehicles business. Once he finds out the owner of the company had died during the Rwanda genocide he decides to take over and starts diverting vehicles destined to Rwanda into the Kenyan market. But vehicles soon become less lucrative.

His guts tell him to move on to more profitable business, the one flourishing in and around the port of Mombasa. Here he finds employment in a company that clears container from ships to the quay, and vice-versa. According to the U.S. report, Abubakar Joho “was the clearing agent for containers that held one ton of cocaine in 2004”.

The influence of Abubakar on Ali Hassan is the one typical of an elder brother towards his younger. According to the American document, it was Abubakar who insisted and convinced Ali Hassan to enter politics. And so he does.

A young Ali Hassan Joho runs and wins the 2007 elections as a representative of the Mombasa region in the national parliament. Shortly after, the report suggests, his career in the drug trade begins.

The report reads that the political campaign that grants him the regional political seat was founded by Swaleh Kandereni, Billy Mahandi and Swaleh Ahmed who are all arrested in Mombasa under drug trafficking charges in 2010. According to the American document, Kandereni allegedly was a major supplier to dealers in the coastal town of Malindi. Another of Joho’s influencial campaigner “was suspected narcotics trafficker Ali Punjabi”, the report reads.

It is since 2010 that the Kenyan Anti Narcotics Unit suspects Ali Hassan Joho to be involved in the narcotics trade. The report fails in providing more details on such claim. Due to Joho’s “political position and financial resources it is unclear what [Kenyan] police intended to do with evidence”, the report ends.

Ali Hassan Joho is elected as governor of the Mombasa county on March 4, 2013.

Together the brothers own Prima Bins & Pest Control, an import-export company in charge of waste management and rat- killing, based in Mama Ngina Drive, Mombasa. It is through their company that the pair move drugs across Kenya. U.S. officials also identify Israeli company Amiran Kenya Ltd, owned by Israeli businessman Andy, as a crucial actor in the criminal network.

Andy appears closely connected with a Mombasa-based man, nicknamed Adamo, one of Joho’s trusted operators. The American report insists that both Mwau and Johos have own companies based at the Kilindi port, in Mombasa, where the cargo seized in December 2004 was heading: “Some of the cocaine [from the 2004 haul] had been stored at the Pepe Container Freight Station CFS, a facility owned by Mr Harun Mwau”.

Ali Hassan Joho also appears as a close acquaintance to Mary Wambui, activist and among the fiercest promoters of former president Kibaki’s political campaign. Wambui, after being Kibaki’s personal counsellor, took his parliamentary seat in 2013. According to the U.S. report, Wambui met often with Hassan and promoted his candidacy for a seat in the regional parliament of Kisauni in 2007.

From Netherlands with Love, the Akashas

Sitting on the throne of drug barons in Kenya is the Akasha family. The world came to know their name when the forefather of the family Ibrahim Akasha brought to court in 1996, charged on drug trafficking. Ibrahim Akasha is a Swiss-based billionaire, the value of whose estate was estimated at USD 100 million, and who owns property in Amsterdam, the Middle East and Asia. Following Ibrahim’s reign, in 1998 it was his brother’s turn: the allegation was for a heroin possession worth  USD 140.000. In his absentia, Ibrahim Akasha hired a Yugoslavian conduit to ship his consignment to Europe. This new agent was linked up to an international syndicate based in Amsterdam: at the top of the Dutch gang was Sam Klepper, a notorious drug trafficker born in the Netherlands. Akasha’s inside men in Amsterdam were the Barsoums brother, Mounir and Magdi.

For a couple of years the new collaboration between the Dutch and the Kenyan gangs ran smoothly. The equilibrium cracked in 1999 when the payment for a drug consignment failed: the event sparkled an internal feud then ended when the Akasha abducted the Dutch gang’s Yugoslavian agent from which they managed to cash in USD 211.000.

Sam Klepper had it in 2000, while Ibrahim Akasha was shot dead while walking hand-in-hand with his wife in Bloedstraat [Blood Street], Amsterdam. It is likely that Mounir Barsoum pulled the trigger. Some days before Ibrahima Akasha had received a phone call from Magdi Barsoum inviting him to Amsterdam. He had obtained the Dutch visa in Spring 2000, just in time to avoid to be caught by the police who found 4.7 tons of heroin worth Sh940 million in the up-market Nyali Estate, Mombasa, the Akasha’s home. Kenyan state was preparing to seize all the family assets. In the end, all the operation was a failure: they didn’t succeed in breaking the Akasha’s empire.

For a feud that stopped, a new one started: this time Klepper’s gang was fighting against a Yugoslavian gang led by the famous drug dealer Streten “Jotcha” Jocic which joined the syndicate. Yugoslavs pushed for executing Ibrahim Akashah. The feud kept leaving fresh blood on the turf: in October 2000 Keller was killed, followed by the Barsoums brothers in 2002 and 2004.

Since the ‘90s, drug dealing has always been a trademark for Akashas. According to Kenyan intelligence, The Netherlands was the final destination of the huge haul of 1,2 tons of cocaine cargo seized in 2004. They suspected that the Akashas were the men behind it. The US Drug Enforcement Agency “had spent years infiltrating Akasha and alleges that the gang is part of a heroin supply chain that stretches from the poppy fields of Afghanistan through east Africa to the cities of Europe and the United States”, wrote Drazen Jorgic in a Special report by Reuters. “In documents filed in a court in the Southern District of New York on November 10th, 2015, the U.S. prosecutors alleged that the Akasha organisation was responsible for the “production and distribution” of large quantities of narcotics in Kenya, Africa and beyond”, continues the report.

The family today is composed as follows:

  • Baktash Akasha Abdallah – considered by intelligence sources as the new boss.
  • Ibrahim Akasha Abdallah – younger, he follows Baktash
  • Nichu Akasha Nichu – runs a garage in Parklands area, in Nairobi

In November 2014, the U.S. government requested the extradition of Baktash Akasha Abdallah, Ibrahim Akasha Abdallah because of what the DEA stated about their trafficking, delivered to The US.

In a report, Baktash is described as the leader of an organised crime and drug trafficking network and his bother Ibrahim, a chief lieutenant in Baktash’s alleged drug trafficking activities.

Four suspected top drug traffickers in Kenya awaiting extradition to the United States were freed on bail Monday, amid concerns of east Africa’s growing importance as a smuggling hub.

The four — two Kenyans, an Indian and a Pakistani — were arrested last month with 98 packets of suspected heroin, with the US issuing an Interpol “red notice” for their capture and request for their extradition

Standard Digital, November 12th 2014

In March 2015 Baktash paid a 30 million shillings (USD 325.000) bail to be freed. According to US court documents and to Akashas’ lawyer, the DEA sting started in March last year.


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