By Reuben Mwambingu
Embattled Mombasa tycoon Ali Punjani cemented strong ties with the who-is-who in the country, something which enabled him enjoy a comfortable reign of his wealthy, albeit secretive, empire.
Sleuths investigating his alleged involvement in drug dealings are now probing his links with high-ranking personalities, who, apparently, offered him preferential protection.
According to a top detective pursuing the case, crucial leads obtained from the palatial home during the Tuesday’s raid indicate the reclusive businessman spent hundreds of millions of shillings funding at least two presidential candidates, 10 governors and dozens of MPs and MCAs.
The revelations came to light following heaps of documents ranging from land title deeds to payment vouchers that were found in one of his two private offices in his beachside castle at balmy Nyali.
“The man is well connected. It took us a short while after we entered his house to realise he could be 100 years ahead in terms of planning; he has thousands of sketches of his plans,” said the officer who spoke on condition of anonymity.
In early 2013, the tycoon stoked controversy when he appeared in the list of Mombasa entrepreneurs who donated a fleet of 19 police patrol cars “to fight insecurity in the County”.
Mombasa Governor Hassan Ali Joho announced that the customised Toyotas, worth Sh2.5 million each were a donation from the Mombasa Business Community including Ali Punjani, Mukwano, Grain Bulk, My Space Properties, Rising Star Commodities, Toyopet, Sangani Transporters and the Hassan Joho Foundation.
The vehicles were each fitted with equipment worth Sh0.5 million, including CCTV cameras that can zoom up to half a kilometre.
But the move would spark fury between Joho and the then County Commissioner Nelson Marwa, who sensationally claimed that some police officers had been compromised and the vehicles were being used to “escort drug consignments.”
Marwa alleged that police officers had been “pocketed” by the barons and instead of arresting the suspects in the illicit business, they were secretly aiding “smooth running” of the outlawed trade by allegedly giving safe passage to drug caches targeting the Coast market.
Inside the sprawling seven-bedroom palatial home sitting atop a creek overlooking the Indian Ocean, detectives obtained clues they believe can help unmask the real Punjani and how he was able to amass such incredible wealth and live large.
The events unfolded even as police said they were pursuing more “big shots” in the network of drugs cartels at the Coast and the country at large.
The Nepalese and Indian women found inside Punjani’s house are also helping to uncover the scope of the suspect’s networks and nature of businesses he deals in.
“There were Nepalese and Indians inside that house. We obtained their travel documents and communication gadgets and established that they have been to other African countries before coming to Kenya. We have been piecing together information to establish the kind of businesses they are in and their link with the suspect,” the source said yesterday.
After the Tuesday’s raid, detectives were also able to access a highly secured private office which is said to be accessed by Punjani only.
“When I tell you this man is miles ahead I mean it. He was monitoring the entire search from wherever he is. He remotely controls the cameras,” he said.
Besides, investigators in the case managed to obtain CCTV camera Digital Video Recorder (DVR) which, they say, will help them review footages of people who visited the home for the past one month.
And Punjani’s range of network of informers cannot be underestimated according to officers interrogating the case, who said they started receiving uncountable number of strange calls shortly after kicking off the search.
“Even today, we have received several calls. We don’t even know where and how they got our contacts,” said the officer.
Punjani is said to be the owner of a posh hotel in Nyali among other properties.