Kenya: Akasha Accomplices Should Be Sent Direct to Face Trial in U.S.

The 25-year jail sentence handed out to Kenyan drug baron Baktash Akasha by a court in the United States should serve as a powerful reminder to all in positions of power and authority here that crime does not pay.

For years Baktash and his younger brother Ibrahim, who is awaiting a November sentencing date by the same New York court, operated with impunity in Kenya after inheriting the nefarious trade from their father.

The senior Akasha was gunned down by rival narcotics traffickers in an Amsterdam street nearly 20 years ago, but his networks survived to entrench Kenya’s dubious reputation as an emerging transshipment point for illicit drugs from Asia and South America headed for the American and European markets.

Ever since the Akasha drug empire took root, the family became untouchable, with law enforcement and judicial systems in their Mombasa base reduced to virtual extensions of the criminal enterprise.

A whole confederacy of judges and magistrates, prosecutors, police and intelligence chiefs, provincial, regional, district and county commissioners, Members of Parliament and other officials of influence did their bidding.

EXTRADITION

It is instructive that the Akasha brothers might never have faced justice had the Kenya government not bundled them off to the US while extradition proceedings were still pending in Kenyan courts.

From the time they were arrested on November 2014 by a joint team of Kenya Police Anti-Narcotics officers and their counterparts from the US Drug Enforcement Agency, the narcotics kingpins tied up the compromised local court system in endless delays.

The brothers and their two foreign accomplices, Vijaygiri Goswami and Gulam Hussein, seemed unlikely to ever be sent to the US for trial.

Eventually the authorities simply got fed up, and in January 2017 bundled them into a plane and flew them straight to the eagerly waiting arms of US law enforcers.

The irregular nature of their extradition was not mourned. Human rights lobbies and legal associations did not rise up in protest. Kenyans shrugged their shoulders and said good riddance.

NO OUTCRY

Nobody really cared that the government had willingly short-circuited and subverted the judicial process by sending the accused, including Kenyan citizens, to the US in a manner that smacked of abduction rather than formal extradition.

There was general acceptance all round that the notorious drug traffickers would never face punishment in Kenyan; just like most other wealthy and powerful criminals usually get away with murder.

That it took the Jubilee government to act decisively in hustling off the infamous thugs to a foreign jurisdiction — and to the US in particular — is noteworthy.

President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto rode to power on the crest of a virulent campaign trumpeting sovereignty, and rejection of transnational justice institutions.

The duo were facing crimes against humanity charges before the International Criminal Court, and their counter-strategy included whipping their supporters into xenophobic hysteria against the global court and any international institution they projected as a tool of neo-colonial interests.

BROKEN SYSTEM

For quite a while into the Jubilee leadership, Kenya was threatening to quit the ICC, and despatching envoys across Africa to lobby for en-masse exit.

Eventually Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto were set free for lack of evidence, but it would seem also that they began to appreciate that the Kenya justice system is corrupt and incompetent; hence the radical decision to dispense with formalities and spirit the Akasha brothers out to face swift and effective justice elsewhere.

And it was swift. Instead of a long drawn-out trial as would have been guaranteed at home, the brothers read the signs and quickly struck a plea bargain.

They pleaded guilty in exchange for relatively light sentences, and presumably also sang their hearts out, giving investigators long lists of their local partners and accomplices.

Right now we can presume that dozens of security operatives, judicial officers, government administrators, politicians and businessmen are quacking in their boots as they await that dreaded knock on their doors.

There will be no tears if they are given the Akasha treatment and flown in handcuffs direct to the US instead of wasting time in local courts.

Similar treatment can be accorded any other suspects who might be wanted to stand trial anywhere else.

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