Tag Archives: Nairobi


When we were conned: Swindlers who had field day.

by- John Kamau

The more fantastic they made their claims, the more people fell under their spell.


They ranged from brazen liars to perfect and polished con artists.

They came as swindlers, conmen, opportunists, ne’er-do-wells and charlatans.

Some came in the name of God – and when they were finished with their gullible and at times unsuspecting victims, they simply disappeared whence they came from.

The more fantastic they made their claims – the more Kenyans fell under their spell.

The media, public officials and big corporates, all fell for their tricks.

We bring you the story of the biggest confidence tricksters of the last 50 years.

Eric Awori, the ‘‘champion’’ reverse driver

Eric Awori pulled one of the most adventurous con tricks ever seen in independent Kenya.

It was in 1985, when he convinced the media that he had driven a car in reverse from Mombasa to Nairobi, then to Nakuru, Rongai and back to Nairobi, hoping to break the world record.

Awori had told the press that he practised on “private roads” and was keen on breaking the world record, then held by American Gerald Hoagland.

Westlands Motors gave him a new Toyota Corolla to drive, while many other sponsors donated in cash and kind as Awori prepared to become ‘‘the first African motorist to hold a world record’’.

“I took it as a personal challenge. If this American could do it, why not me?” he told the press after “finishing” the gruelling journey.

For “achieving” that feat, he was feted at a reception held at the Hilton Hotel, where he received the global award.

He then announced to motor company executives that he planned to set off another world breaking record by reversing a 7-tonne lorry from Nairobi to Mombasa.

For that D.T Dobie donated a giant Mercedez-Benz truck which was to be loaded with building materials donated by Mombasa traders for building a new Harambee classroom.

DT Dobie also donated fuel worth Sh10,000, while Daily Nation reported that “Mr John Miller, an independent adjudicator for Guinness Book of Records”, had arrived in Nairobi.

Awori said he planned to leave Mombasa on December 11 and arrive at Uhuru Park on December 12 during the Jamhuri Day celebrations.

Assistant minister Sharrif Nassir flagged off Awori on the night of December 11, but nobody knows what happened after that.

Telex messages were sent to Kenya News Agency on his progress and final arrival in Nairobi.

The last one was from “John Miller” from the Guiness Book of Records “confirming” that Awori had broken another record.

After being celebrated as a Kenyan hero, Awori announced that he was now going to attend the “620-km Kiwi Auto Reverse Rally” in New Zealand’s Newbury Ranch Farm.

The Daily Nation captured the moment he arrived: “A tired-looking Eric Awori and his service crew arrived in Auckland, New Zealand, yesterday morning, where a crowd of about 5,000 enthusiasts of reverse drive were waiting to give him a rousing welcome….

Awori spent about one hour at the airport chatting to the crowd and signing autographs before going to his hotel.

Over 3,500 copies of Daily Nation with Awori’s profile found their way to Auckland yesterday and all copies sold out within half an hour of arrival. More copies have been ordered from Nairobi…”

Daily Nation was one of the sponsors who had lined up to support Awori.

On February 10, 1986, a telex was sent to the newsrooms confirming that “Awori has re-written motoring history by becoming the first African driver ever to win a contest in a European country.”

The papers reported that he had driven his Kenyan assembled Toyota Corolla, and won after driving in reverse for 31 hours 55 minutes “through some of the most rugged murrum and tarmac roads in Auckland.”

He had been “assisted by two Gikomba Jua Kali mechanics 60-year-old Mzee Peter Kuria and Ali Omar”.

But something was not adding up.

There were no photos and the New Zealand High Commission in Nairobi said there was no such event.

Summoned by Daily Nation editors to prove he went to New Zealand, Awori failed to table photographs.

The CID arrested him later and charged him with fraud.

What emerged later was that the truck was actually not driven in reverse from Mombasa.

There was nobody from Guinness.

Awori did not travel to New Zealand.

All the telex sent came from a Nairobi office on Mama Ngina Street where Awori coordinated his lies.

In the few months, he had received air tickets, money, hotel accommodation and gifts worth thousands of shillings.

He was also a celebrity.


DICK BERG and the All Africa games

In 1987, Kenya hosted the All Africa games that saw the building of Moi Sports Complex, Kasarani.

During the preparations, one Dick Berg, a US citizen, arrived in Nairobi and told ministry officials that his firm, Berg and Associates, could help collect over Sh224 million for the Nairobi games, having achieved a similar feat for the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984.

Unfortunately, nobody checked these facts.

Berg was granted exclusive business rights to market the games and brought on board Coca-Cola and House of Manji among other companies.

According to Henry Kosgey, then minister of Culture and Sports, they did not know that Berg was “an international crook.”

While he was to market the games internationally, the ministry only received Sh5 million before Berg fled out of the country without submitting the final accounts.

He later claimed that he feared for his life and that was the last Kenyans heard of him and the promised Sh224 million.


Mohammed Khashoggi, the fake Saudi billionaire’s son

He told his victims that he was the son of Saudi billionaire Adnan Khashoggi – and that appeared to work.

The 34-year-old Kenyan trickster left an astonishing trail of victims of his wily ruses in Mombasa, Nairobi and London.

British newspapers thought his real name was Fred Achieng’, but nothing else was known about this man who always spotted a Yasser Arafat-style kaffiye and spoke with a refined accent that made his victims believe he was a senior executive of a multinational company with interests in Europe, the US, Asia, and Africa.

Hotels loved him because he was a big spender.

In some four months in UK, he had accrued bills of £200,000 before he was arrested.

The head of CID, Noah Arap Too, later admitted that Mr “Khashoggi” once posed as a security intelligence agent before three five-star hotels took him in, thinking he was an international pianist.

And the man was indeed a talented pianist.

In the 1980s, he was employed as a cabaret artist, and he managed to swindle hundreds of tourists and establishments.

It took the management of one prestigious hotel the whole of 1994 to discover that the man they had contracted to play the piano was a confidence trickster.

In Mombasa, he targeted affluent but gullible business people. Many thought he was a genuine clearing and forwarding executive who could help at the Mombasa port.

The son of a former Permanent Secretary, he booked himself in a presidential suite of a hotel where he accumulated a bill of Sh150,000 before telling managers that they would be paid by Kanyotu International – possibly a reference to the dreaded head of Special Branch, James Kanyotu.

It was from this hotel that he conned a Mombasa businessman of Sh20 million after convincing him that his firm had won a multi-million shilling tender to supply equipment to the Kenya Ports Authority.

He had told the businessman that he (Khashoggi) could help the businessman to procure the equipment cheaply since he had links to crane manufacturing companies in Europe.

In 1988, a British court had convicted the then 26-year-old of fraud and theft and jailed him for four years.

His victims included hotel tycoon Allen Sheppard, then owner of the Grand Metropolitan Hotel Group, who was conned into giving weeks of five-star hospitality to the penniless guest.
The trickster had approached Mr Sheppard to protest at being kicked out of the Grand Met’s Forum Hotel in London’s West End by the doorman.

He convinced Mr Sheppard that arms dealer Khashoggi was his father forcing the hotelier to apologise and order the Forum to roll out the red carpet for the billionaire’s son. The police later discovered that the man was actually a lowly paid hotel porter!



When George Donde crafted the Development entrepreneurship and Community Initiative (Deci) in 2006, he told his victims that he would double their cash.

They believed him and they lined up with cash hoping to make a fortune after only three months of investing.

The initial “customers” actually got paid, but that only lured them and more others into the trap.

Pastors and bishops

Deci sold its concept through pastors and bishops – who were the first victims.

They convinced their congregations to put money into the scheme.

Another one, Clip Investment Cooperative Society, was promising to pay 120 per cent interest on money collected from members to finance the publication of a Christian book, Rise up Again.

Others which operated along the same “investment” line included Bright Vision, Jitegemee, Akiba Micro Finance, Acid, Sasanet, Kenya Business, Global, Circuit, Swop Silver Ventures, and Fino.

Of these, the most complex was Sasanet, which had been registered in 2003 to offer premium rate and national payphone services.

It created the Sasanet Investment Co-operative Society Limited, which lured investors to put money into the project.

The majority of investors had contributed between Sh1 million and Sh2 million to have a stake in what was to be a multi-billion shilling venture with high returns.

But it was just hype – a high-sounding nothing.


Grace Aluma, the fake Ugandan billionaire

In 1982, Ugandan trickster Grace Aluma arrived in Nairobi masquerading as a billionaire.

She told her gullible listeners that she was engaged in uranium business and was scouting for big deals with the US government, one of her customers.

Top names, including politicians, fell for that ruse and hoping to have a share of the $100 million (Sh8.6 billion at current exchange rate) which Aluma claimed to have in a Kenyan bank.

For those doubting her, she would flash some obviously forged documents as she collected money from various institutions eager to do business with her.

As an “investor”, she had managed to sell her story to some diplomats and was on the verge of selling International Life House to a diplomatic mission when she was smoked out.

But that was not before she had conned Kenya Commercial Bank, Swissair, Westlands Motors, UN consultant Dr Victor Johnson and Bahati MP Fred Omido of significant amounts of money.

Aluma was later jailed for two years on a charge of fraud and conspiracy to defraud a city bank of Sh100,000.


GENERAL MATHENGE, the Ethiopian farmer

Lemma Ayanu was a victim of this con just as were millions of Kenyans.

Amid his government’s and his own protestations, he was flown into Kenya in May 2003 as the missing Mau Mau leader, General Mathenge.

Top leaders had congregated at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to witness the arrival of Gen Mathenge.

Ayanu was accompanied by four of his relatives and for days, former Mau Mau leaders dismissed his credentials.

He could not speak Kikuyu language and only spoke Amharic.

Ethiopian Embassy insisted that Ayanu was an ordinary farmer and wondered why the Kenya government was carrying a DNA test on him.

At the end of the Gen Mathenge episode, the government had spent about Sh1.5 million in accommodation, transport and meals.



In 2004, Mrs Eddah Odera, 56 and post-menopausal, claimed to have given birth to 13 “miracle babies” between 1999 and 2004 with no contact with a man.

The miracle babies turned out to be part of a major human trafficking syndicate involving two clinics in Nairobi, Mrs Mary Juma Deya and her husband Gilbert Deya, who lived in the UK as a “Pastor.”

Mrs Deya and her accomplices were later jailed.


DIBLA AMELIA, the Queen of Sheba

When Dibla Amelia George arrived in Nairobi in the first week of December 2001, she booked herself at the Grand Regency and told those who cared to be conned that she was the Queen of Sheba.

She said she had come to Kenya in search of diamonds.

She was booked by the family of some drug baron into the Presidential suite.

From here, she called a press conference, which was widely covered, to announce that she was seeking opportunities to invest Sh15 billion.
At the Regency, she had accrued a bill of Sh3.4 million, and the hotel security refused to let her leave until she cleared.

Her friends tried to intervene but she ended up before Nairobi Magistrate who released her on a Sh500,000 bond.

On the night of January 30, she was whisked to the airport and the Queen of Sheba disappeared.



The Artur brothers. They were implicated in the raid on the Standard Media Group. PHOTO/FILE

In 2006, two Armenians arrived in the country and managed to hoodwink everyone.

Mr Artur Margaryan and Mr Artur Sargsyan were international criminals.

They had managed to worm themselves into the Kenya security system and got “appointed” as Deputy Commissioners of Police.

They had VIP passes for JKIA and wined and dined with the powerful.

They had a house in Runda where they threw overnight parties, drove diplomatic cars and carried pistols openly.

They were implicated in the raid on the Standard Media Group.

After they went berserk at the airport and assaulted immigration officers, President Kibaki sacked the CID director Joseph Kamau and formed a commission of inquiry.

Also implicated was Winnie Wangui, the daughter of the current Othaya MP, Mary Wambui. Winnie was a girlfriend of one of the crooks.

When police raided their Runda home, they found a cache of guns and ammunition, balaclava helmets and a number of T-shirts branded QRU (Quick Response Unit) which the hooded raiders at The Standard Group offices wore.




Highlights from 2013 Storymoja Hay Festival

Highlights from 2013 Storymoja Hay Festival


Facebook cover photo


The Schools Programme kicked off the 2013 StoryMoja Hay Festival with 2 days full of fun, activity and learning in events ranging from art sessions, to nature history, fab lab robotics, storytelling, and creative writing. Teens had opportunities to speak to experts and explore career options, creative writing skills, art workshops, science experiments, nature history (dinosaurs!) and so much more.


Over 50 schools from the Nairobi and the environs brought in more than 1000 children on the first day and over 4000 children on the second day.


On Thursday preteens and teens had a chance to work a with a science and robotics team from the University of Nairobi. Teens had the chance to converse with Dr. Mukesh Kapila about his life as a human rights activist ; with Florence Ambayo on the choice of careerswith Dr. Auma Obama on Sports & Social Change; with Nii Ayikwri Parkes on Image and Truth reflected in Poetry. They also had a chance to explore the art of writing with Children’s and YA author Jenny Valentine.




Friday saw the Read Aloud at midday receiving support from Kenyan pop soul band Sauti Sol. More than 2000 children went wild upon recognizing one of their favorite bands on site – an appearance that was kept a secret and which saw the band hiding out in the Pink Lounge for more than an hour until all the kids could be done with their morning activities. It was worth the surprise and expressions on the children’s faces!




The Schools Programme ended with a round of storytelling from Muthoni Garland, Atinuke and Mara Menzies as well as art and creative expression workshops with Michael Onsando and Dayan Masinde.


Saturday offered a wealth of activities and experiences in family oriented sessions, including Mum/Dad and me sessions for 6 to 9-year-old, Creative expression classes for 10 – 13 year olds and Creative Writing Workshops, Theater Workshops, Conversations with personalities and authors, Hackathons and Career advice session for older teens.




Although, Thursday and Friday accommodated Masterclasses for Authors & Illustrators, Saturday was the official beginning of activities and conversations meant for a general audience.


Saturday kicked off with The Wangari Maathai Memorial Lecture delivered by Dr. Mukesh Kapila at the Louis Leakey Auditorium. The title of his lecture was: Why are we Cruel?


Saturday also saw Storymoja Hay Festival Writing Fellows Nduta Waweru, Linda Musita, Wanjeri Gakuru and Ruth Kenyah read their writing and discuss their writing journey over the course of the 1 year fellowship.




Saturday morning also saw the filming of various documentary film screenings including the film series presented by Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies, the Princeton Atelier &the Program in Visual Arts of the Lewis Center for the Arts, & by the Princeton Environmental Institute.


The films The MatriarchCurse of the Gazelle KingNature’s Nurturers, Re-alignments: A Zebra’s Story, The Lost Boys of Laikipia were screened and followed by a Q&A with the filmmakers; Muhinza Bushoki, Kevin Midigo, Loise Njagi, Maryanne Wangui Njuguna, Victor Oloo and teaching assistant Karim Kara.


The morning closed with a session titled Voicing The Unspoken moderated by Njeri Wangari and panelled by Warsan Shire, Dr Neal Hall and Dr. Mongane Wally Serote.




By mid-afternoon tragedy hung over the festival site as news of a shooting attack on the nearby Westgate Mall begun to trickle in backed up by the sound of sirens and military helicopters.


Even so the writers, panelists and organizers held fort until the end of the day when the official announcement was made announcing that the festival was cancelled in sympathy and honor of those killed at the Westgate Mall. The announcement also expressed concerns for attendees of the festival in view of such a violent attack happening so close.


By the morning of Sunday 22nd September, the festival received confirmation that a guest of the festival Professor Kofi Awoonor had been killed in the Westgate Terrorist Attack.


In a message to the Storymoja Hay Festival goers, Dr. Auma Obama wrote:


“What happened at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi on the 21 September 2013 is NOT the world that was imagined when the theme ‘Imagine the world’ was coined for the Story Moja Hay festival. None of us could imagine a world that within seconds could turn a harmless shopping spree into a nightmare of terror, blood, death and mayhem. Certainly not Prof Kofi Awoonor, poet and diplomat, who had come to Kenya to support and give his wisdom to the greatest of causes; the education of children and the wider community into the culture of reading and the acquirement of knowledge through books – Not when he and his son walked into the Westgate Mall on that tragic day to be confronted with an armed attack that resulted in his demise.


It is hard to accept, to imagine, that because of this heinous act we have lost such a great and powerful literary personality. This is a great loss, not just to the African continent, but to the whole literary world. His death is proof of the senselessness of such acts. Sadly in taking his life, those who did this also took away a part of their own heritage. Because what Prof Awoonor gave with his work was not exclusive to his homeland Ghana, nor to the African continent. It was and is a contribution to the enrichment of our world as a whole.”


In the same vein, children’s author Atinuke said:


“The festival was cut short this year. But it will come back. Again and again and again. And I will come back to it with stories, and with hope.


Because over four thousand children eagerly attended the festival during its three short days. Children who deserve to be inspired. Children who deserve to express themselves creatively and passionately as they grow. Children who deserve to dream and hope and laugh.


Those children deserve to be free from terror. We all do. And they deserve to read as much as they want of the best of books that there are, to open their eyes and hearts to the whole wide world.


This is what Hay festivals worldwide are about. An opposite to terror. And they will continue, beautifully, hopefully, creatively.”

Twitter: @SMHayFest

Facebook: Storymoja Hay Festival

Email: info@storymojaafrica.co.ke


Enough opinions have been raised to reiterate on the Westgate siege and all i can pitch in is how the events unfolded; the only way i know how; in Pictures


Photo Source:Totally Cool Pix http://totallycoolpix.com/2013/09/graphic-the-westgate-shopping-center-shootings-in-kenya/