Nairobi: Man in Ksh11M fake UNHCR rice tender arrested

By , K24 Digital
On Wed, 27 Apr, 2022 13:21 | 4 mins read
Prime suspect in the rice con game Martin Shiamia Matchel. PHOTO/DCI
Prime suspect in the rice con game Martin Shiamia Matchel. PHOTO/DCI

Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) detectives have arrested a man who conned a Nairobi Businessman Ksh11 million in fake tender involving rice supply to United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).

Rice supply

According to detectives, the suspect Martin Shiamia Matchel,34, told the businessman that he had connections at UNHCR who at the time wanted a supply of top-grade rice to be delivered to a refugee camp in South Sudan.

"The businessman had been awarded a fake tender to supply 1,680 bags of rice to the U.N agency, only to realise after one month that he had been defrauded by one of Nairobi’s ruthless racketeers, non-other than 34-year-old Martin Shiamia Matchel," a statement by DCI read in part.

Rice supply saga pitting UNHCR and a Nairobi conman. PHOTO/DCI

Matchel, who is not new to controversy, has had previous run-ins with the law and is a frequent visitor to Kenyan courts.

DCI said he has several pending fraud cases scattered across various courts across the country.

Con game

In December 2021, Matchel approached a businessman known as Mohammed and offered to introduce him to the UN supplies system.

"He posed as an agent of top decision-makers in the U.N system and boasted of knowing his way around the corridors of U.N Nairobi offices, in Gigiri," DCI stated.

He intimated to the victim that he was aware of a lucrative tender that was to be issued by the UNHCR to supply first-grade rice and he, therefore, asked him to submit his business profile to an email address purportedly belonging to the UNHCR and wait for the agency’s response.

"A week later on December 13, Mohamed received feedback and was invited to supply 1,680 bags of grade one rice.

Invoice in the rice supply saga. PHOTO/DCI

"Matchel told him to ensure that he supplied the rice within the shortest time possible before another firm was awarded the tender, since the rice was required for relief distribution to hunger-stricken refugees at a camp in South Sudan, known as the Nile camp," DCI added.

Conflict in Ethiopia

He was further informed that the situation was getting exacerbated by the ongoing ‘conflict’ in Ethiopia.

"Since the whole consignment could not be secured in the country expeditiously, Matchel proposed to Mohamed that they import the product at a cheaper price from Tanzania.

"The trader dispatched his son to accompany Matchel to Arusha on December 18, and the following day, the two returned to Nairobi with samples of the rice which would be presented to purported quality assurance officers at the UNHCR for inspection," DCI said.

Mohammed was later informed that the samples had been accepted and he now had the green light to supply the product.

"Between December 23 and 27, Mohamed transferred a total of Sh11 million from his Equity bank account to an account belonging to Yazeed Rice Company, in Tanzania," DCI added.

Quality control

In order to convince Mohamed that all was going well, a lady identified as Peris Nyawira, purportedly an Inspection Officer from the UNCHR touched down in Arusha on December 22, to ensure that all was going well and that the rice was being packaged in the required manner.

Copy of purchasing order in the rice supply saga. PHOTO/DCI

The consignment was packed in three trailers from the company’s godown in Kahama, 7 hours drive from Arusha town. Each lorry carried 560 bags of rice.

Nyawira then requested delivery and invoices from Mohammed via email, received the goods formally by stamping the documents with fake UNHCR stamps and declared the goods to be safely in the hands of a UNHCR logistics officer, who would ensure the consignment reaches South Sudan.

Meanwhile, Mohammed was asked to wait for his payment for about a month as it was being processed.

Rice sold in Nairobi

"But in a call that would later shock him, he learnt on February 6, 2022, that the whole deal was a conspiracy of lies and that the rice went nowhere past Nairobi.

"Instead, city traders were scrambling for the cheapest rice in town, going for prices that hadn’t been heard in the local market in recent times.

"Matchel and his cabal of crooks had diverted the whole consignment to a hired godown in Kasarani, and they were selling it at Ksh75 per kilogram, a far cry from the Ksh105 Mohamed had bought it in Arusha," DCI said.

So much was the demand for the cheap top-grade rice, that some traders in the city saw a serious business opportunity and telephoned Yazeed Rice Company in Tanzania, asking whether there was more cheaper rice.

Yazeed, the rice supplier. PHOTO/DCI

"Yazeed who didn’t know what had transpired immediately called Mohamed and asked him why he had decided to sell the rice that he bought from him at a throwaway price," DCI stated.

That is when it dawned on Mohammed that he had been swindled after calls to Matchel’s phone went unanswered, followed by being blacklisted.

On February 7, he walked to the U.N offices in Gigiri, where he was informed that the documents in his possession were all fake and no such tender had been issued by the world body.

Immediately, a manhunt for Matchel was launched, leading to his arrest on Sunday at the Namanga border point, as he was attempting to cross over to Tanzania to defraud yet another businessman.

Matchel was arraigned at the Kiambu law courts on Tuesday.

He pleaded not guilty to four charges of conspiracy to defraud, stealing by agent, obtaining goods by false pretences and forgery of UNHCR documents.

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