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8. The Ismaili Community

Ismailis from Imperial Bank accused of swindling K 34 billion | Ismaili Community Frauds

 

Senior Imperial Bank officials, most of them belonging to the Ismaili community, allegedly siphoned Sh34 billion from the institution, that was placed under receivership, between 2002 and September 2015.

Receiver manager Peter Gatere accused former group MD Abdulmalek Janmohamed and other senior officials of embezzling the funds.

The MD, Abdulmalek Janmohamed, died from cardiac arrest on September 15.

TITLE AJ-1200x512

Abdulmalek Janmohammed

The funds were transferred to 20 companies and individuals named as respondents in the case, Gatere said in documents filed in court on Tuesday.

An affidavit filed by lawyer George Oraro says; “The respondents herein have clearly been unjustly enriched or benefitted from the illegal transfers of these vast sums to them on the order of the deceased and other senior officers of the bank.”

Gatere moved to court seeking orders for assets associated with the bank’s senior employees to be frozen, saying the individuals and companies might dispose or transfer the property.

Some of the properties he wants frozen are in Nairobi and Ruiru while others have been charged to other banks.

The documents say WE Tilley has admitted receiving Sh10 billion and “has offered to have a second charge created over its properties”.

Gatere further wants the court to direct defendants in the case to submit a list of all their assets, their bank accounts and audited accounts from 2006 to 2015.

The documents say Janmohamed was faulted for irregular activities after his death from cardiac arrest on September 15.

They state that the accusations were raised with directors, by the bank’s former head of credit and acting manager Naeem Shah, and an individual only identified as Kaburu.

The two accused Janmohamed of asking them to carry out illegal activities, including the withdrawal of large sums of money from their accounts, without having any loan facilities or accommodation.

They claimed the instructions were given through handwritten notes, in which they were allegedly instructed to manipulate the bank’s books to facilitate the fraudulent transfers.

The implicated individuals and companies are as follows;

1. WE Tilley (Muthaiga)

2. Primecatch (Exports)

3. Mara Fish Packers

4. J Fish Kenya

5. Victorian Delight

6. Ruby Red

7. Value Pak Foods

8. From Eden

9. Aqualite

10. Zulfikar Haiderali Jessa

11. Nasir Haiderali Jessa

12. Nargis Jessa

13. Nadir Azizali Jessa

14. Firoz Jessa

15. Salim Jessa

16. Irfan Shamshadin Jessa

17. Nashiv Haiderali Jessa

18. Marmo E Granito Mines (T)

19. Marmo Marble (U)

20. Fishways Uganda

Source: The Nation, Kenya

http://www.the-star.co.ke/news/2015/10/27/imperial-bank-officials-accused-of-swindling-sh34-billion-20-firms_c1232002

The first time Abdulmalek JanMohammed ever robbed Imperial Bank, he had a gun to his head. Three short years later, he became the robber, carrying out a heist so elaborate its web is still being untangled, five months after his death.

A detailed account of the entire heist is reproduced below from http://owaahh.com/the-sack-of-imperial-bank/

PART I: The Lead Star in ‘Accused’

If you do a Google image search of Abdulmalek Janmohammed you will only find five images of him. Three of them center on events of a partnership between Imperial Bank and the English football club, Arsenal FC. The fourth appears to be from a press briefing, with the Imperial Bank logo appearing prominently behind him. In the last one, he’s seated on the edge of a beige leather couch, posing awkwardly.

In the images, Abdulmalek appears pensive and uncomfortable. In one where he’s holding the right sleeve of an Arsenal jersey, he looks mad while everyone else is smiling. The other images suggest why. A round man with a protruding, pesky potbelly and a double chin, his hands are always clasped on his stomach as if hiding it. Its a clue of vanity and self-pacification, and perhaps a hint of the man and his fears. It, however, suggests little of the man who Central Bank says, carried out a bigger scandal than Goldenberg. Almost half a year after his death, Abdulmalek remains a mystery, and the bank is still closed.

 

Imperial Bank 1

On the last day of April 1998, three amateur kidnappers bundled an elderly Ismaili man and his driver into the back of a stolen BMW 320 and drove them to a house they had rented in Karen. They then drove to the home of a third man and kidnapped him too. It was the perfect plan. In two uneventful swoops, the kidnappers had nabbed two important men, Abdul Karim Popat, the Chairman of Imperial Bank and Abdulmalek JanMohammed, the Managing Director of the six-year-old bank. The third victim was Popat’s driver, Stephen Kamau.

To be released, Abdulmalek JanMohammed was forced to rob his own bank. With the cold muzzle of a gun pressing against the back of his head, he unlocked his bank in the middle of the night. He led the robbers to the Chairman’s office, to the safe, which had KES 500, 000. Abdulmalek was then released mostly unhurt but visibly shaken. Stupidly, the kidnappers retained his cell phone, setting themselves up for one of the first criminal investigations to feature mobile phone signal tracking in Kenya.

Four years after this harrowing ordeal, Abdulmalek JanMohammed began a bank robbery of his own. Court documents filed by the Central Bank of Kenya on October 28th, 2015, revealed that he had stolen KShs. 38.5 billion from his own bank, mainly through a shady company called W.E. Tilley.

Who was Abdulmalek Janmohammed?

For a man who orchestrated one of the biggest and most elaborate bank heists in Kenyan history, little is known about Abdulmalek Janmohammed. It is hard, even now, to find any single person who can draw a complete image of the man. Instead, everyone who knew or worked for him knew only a part of the man, the part he permitted them to see. He was obsessively private and kept a small circle of friends, most of whom would become cogs in his secret plans for the bank he headed.

Abdul or AJ, as his friends called him, was born in 1959 to Gulshan and her husband, Abdulsultan Janmohammed in Karachi, right before they moved to Mombasa. He was the stocky, introverted second born, following his elder brother Mehdi’s birth in January 1951. Their last born, Salim, was born in July 1962. Abdulsultan, a wily man, died in the 1980s after a series of heart attacks as his second son would three decades later.

Of the three brothers, only Abdulmalek went into banking. Mehdi and Salim became accountants and went into hospitality. Mehdi now works for Sopa Lodges, while Salim worked for TPS Serena until August 2015, the month before their brother died. He, Salim, was fired over alleged fraud and has since sued the hotel chain. Both Mehdi and Salim lived and worked in Arusha, Tanzania while Abdulmalek lived in Riverside with their mom. It was a small, close-knit Ismaili family, with Mehdi and Salim driving down from Arusha fortnightly for dinner and social events.

All of Gulshan’s children were thriving by the mid-1990s, but it was Abdulmalek who struck gold. After completing a bachelors degree in finance and management of data systems from Syracuse University in New York, he entered the banking world as a management trainee at Diamond Trust Bank. He moved banks and in just a few years was the 4th most senior executive at CFC Bank. Always clad in a blue or black suit, a crisp white shirt, and a blue or red tie, the young man was growing into a rounded, stocky man with chubby cheeks and a peeking double chin. Whenever he spoke, his deep voice barely audible, he forced his audience to listen. He was brief and brilliant, with a weird smile and searching eyes. Mostly, he was quiet, always choosing to let others speak before him and only getting animated when he was truly passionate.

From the very start, Abdulmalek was a brilliant and ambitious banker, showing impeccable judgment and focus. His meteoric rise was earned through sheer hard work, with him sacrificing nearly the entirety of a social life to work. But even that fast rise was not enough. He was still someone else’s employee, bound by workplace rules and his job description. He wanted more. That chance brought itself sooner than he expected.

In 1991, Abdulmalek was invited to a meeting by Simba Colt founder, Abdul Karim Popat. Founded in 1948, Simba Colt had grown from a small used car dealership on Koinange Street into a Mitsubishi franchise. It had merged with CMC, the oldest and biggest car dealership in the region, in 1977. The partnership lasted four short years and by the late 1980s, Abdul Popat was looking for ways to grow his empire.

One of the biggest ideas on his in-tray was to found a hire purchase arm. Hire purchase had been, since the 1970s, on a rapid rise in Kenya. To test this new entry, Popat poached one of CFC’s youngest and most suave executives, a 32-year-old man called Abdulmalek JanMohammed. Abdulmalek was everything a self-made man like Abdul Popat was looking for in the next generation of Ismaili entrepreneurs. With no pedigree, the young banker had climbed up the ranks fast and with surety. He was educated, confident and hungry. Not only was he not flashy but he was respectful and courteous to a fault.

Within just a few months into his new job, Abdulmalek already saw it as something bigger than a department. He had already discussed the possibility with his new boss but once the hire purchase arm was stable, he took his own proposal seriously. He would build a bank.

 

For Abdulmalek, the hire purchase department was too small an idea for 1992. The Berlin Wall had fallen and global finance was bound to change drastically. Just five years before, a banking crisis had rocked the market, breaking apart the weaker players and reducing Kenya’s banking sector from 29 commercial banks to less than half that number. It had been one of his first experiences as a young banker, the collapse of an entire sector and the cannibalization of smaller ones. This time, he was not going to be a spectator. So a group of wealthy, aging, self-made men sat at Abdul Popat’s invitation and agreed to give the small hire purchase department the financial muscle it needed to become a bank. This trust and foresight would give him immense power and control over the company and its future, something that would, within the decade, turn on its head. First, the hire purchase arm became a Finance and Securities Company and then it was licensed as a fully-fledged bank in 1996. At the helm of one of the fastest-growing banks was a man who wanted to rule the world, his own world.

When Imperial Bank opened its doors in 1993, its logo, a prominent purple crown sitting on the bank’s name like a crown on a monarch told the story of this young bank and its ambitious plan. The market Imperial Bank was walking into, with an aggressively ambitious man at the top, was just about to grow exponentially. There were only 15 banks, but there would be 48 in less than a decade. Even the choice of name made it clear Abdulmalek was not building a small bank. He had lofty, imperial dreams, for himself and his new baby. But he would turn its tagline “Looking after your interest!” into something else.

To the men who had given Abdulmalek a bank to run, the man proved to have been the right choice. He kept a tight hold of the ship for them to feel comfortable. But what they missed was that he was not as easy to read as he had them think. Even as they relinquished their positions in boards to their sons and successors, Abdulmalek maintained his close contact with them. He lavished them with attention and treated them like kings, using every opportunity to downplay his own success and show them he was still their son. It was a power play and in retrospect, classic Abdulmalek.

Abdulmalek was always a rule-breaker, eager to quietly test the limits and see how much he could get away with. Since he was unassuming and exceedingly introverted, most of his experiments were with unsuspecting people. A friend recently recounted a weird exchange that happened at an airport years ago. As the plane taxied, Abdulmalek beckoned one of the stewardesses and told her that his eyesight was so bad he couldn’t fill out his own landing card. Would she care to help him with it? She did, and he had a weird, satisfied smile when he left. When his friend asked about it, knowing the man had rather a sharp eyesight, he shrugged it off.

That encounter links with many others of small, unnecessarily manipulative interactions he had with people. In his mind, the world was his playground and everyone was fair game. He wouldn’t pack or unpack his own bags, calling room service every time to do it. It wasn’t laziness but an almost psychopathic urge to seek power through manipulation, even in small doses. In retrospect, most of his employees and friends marvel at his ability to compartmentalize human relationships to obsessive detail, and his uncanny ability to deceive. He quietly but firmly pushed any rules he hadn’t made, and increasingly grew a fatal sense of invincibility.

Emails presented to CBK by FTI, an auditing firm, as part of the evidence in the fraud include one on a trove of his conversations, pointing towards a quiet, manipulative leader. He hardly says anything in most of the emails but he is always copied, in every conversation. Even in personal discussions, or one long fight with a partner about a real estate project in Loresho built with some of the stolen money, he lets everyone else fight it out. But all the people on the email thread knew he was the puppeteer behind the strings, with the aggrieved partner complaining about his making it a criminal matter.

The deal, to give the partner a commission for selling the apartment units, had failed after no one bought in. So they all agreed to rent them out. The problem was that there was no commission deal for rent, something the real estate agent partner asked, rightly. In response, it emerges from the emails, Abdulmalek had called in the police and Criminal Investigation Department detectives. It was classic Abdulmalek, power over people wasnt meant to be given. It was taken, by all means.

***

For Abdulmalek Janmohammed, people could be controlled in one of three ways. The first one was the easiest, money. Everyone who worked for him directly earned a healthy salary and, if he liked them, random cash gifts. His gifts, even at the mosque and within his community, were always in cash. The in-house joke at the bank was that it was probably the only place in Kenya where the secretary, Anne Mboya, drove a better car than her boss. He owned a Mitsubishi Lancer and a Mitsubishi Gallant, modest cars for a man of his means. When, in 2011, Simba Colt began selling BMW vehicles, he bought a BMW 5 Series that he never drove. Anne, on the other hand, drove to work in her Mercedes. She had worked for him from 1996. Whispers within CBK also indicate that another employee, the Chief Finance Officer, James Kaburu, had put away a tidy sum, which could run above a billion shillings, in a secondary bank account outside his employer.

Abdulmalek’s second tool was a combination of intimidation and compartmentalization. Whenever he came out of his introverted shell, he was manipulative and vindictive. He reminded the people around him that he was big, and he knew the system and would have any of them arrested or harassed. He called in the police on anyone, even once on a housing committee for trying to force him to follow the association rules.

Imperial Bank 3

 

Everyone and everything around him worked in silos such that he was the only one with a complete picture. The security agents he used to intimidate his colleagues and enemies hardly knew what he was actually playing at. Nor did his employees or even most of his business partners. His employees cant remember ever sitting at strategy and review meetings as a team. Instead, he met each of them individually, and would not know where in the pecking order they really fell. Even when they were moving different parts of his 15-year-long scam, many of them never knew how or what was actually happening.

Abdulmalek’s third tool was the most ingenious, loaded free reign. When his former executives broke down the scandal to the board, and in turn, to the world, a lot of things made sense. If you worked for him, you could do whatever you wanted. You could come to work at whatever time you wanted, and dress however you liked. If you ran a department, that was your little kingdom to rule. But there was a catch, that you only had this free reign if you did exactly when he wanted when he wanted it done. Everyone around him, including Naeem Shah, the Head of Credit, and James Kaburu, the Chief Financial Officer, understood this. Every once in a while, handwritten chits would appear on their desks asking for money to be transferred to particular accounts. Entries would be hidden by manipulating the accounting software, allowing for Abdulmalek to produce three different books of accounts. He had the real one showing the missing money. The Board got one, and CBK, as the regulator, the third.

***

As a lifelong bachelor with no hobbies, Abdulmalek was a creature of habit, thriving in a set schedule that allowed him to control everything around him. A contradiction of a man, he believed, especially in the last few years of his life, that the only rules that mattered were the ones he made.

Every morning, at 4 am, he and his mom would be driven to the mosque at Parklands for prayers. By 7:30 am, he and his confidante, his Head of Treasury Nina Shah, would be seated at Capital Club, in the same building as the banks headquarters in Westlands, for breakfast. Then they would go downstairs to the office for the day. Every morning or lunch time, depending on his schedule, he drove to a city hotel to swim or to exercise in the gym.

His friendship with the sari-wearing Nina Shah was a vital part of his day. Nina, as Head of Treasury, had insurmountable powers within the bank. In their email conversations where Abdulmalek and another good friend, Amin Manji, affectionately call her Ninabel, she appears as more a close friend than an employee. Born and brought up in Kisumu, she had worked for another controversial bank, Delphis Bank, owned by another Kisumu-born Asian, Ketan Somaia, before moving to Imperial Bank. The bank is most famous for having been Goldenberg’s banker for a time during the height of that scandal. Delphis was eventually sold and rebranded to Oriental Commercial Bank but Nina was thriving at Imperial Bank by then. She was not only powerful now but she was the MD’s confidante and, arguably, one of his few real friends.

Outside of his childhood friend and business partner, Amin Manji and Nina, Abdulmalek didn’t have much of a social life. He never went out but for one social gathering a week. At such gatherings, he had a single beer and left, every time for many years, at exactly 10:30 PM. Every Sunday, he would be driven to Amin Manji’s house in Muthaiga for lunch. The schedule only changed for travel, again always meticulously planned, and emergencies.

Even his accounts show an almost obsessive pattern. With his money, Abdulmalek’s skills as a banker were not blunted by his decade-long fraud. Instead, he was ever the more meticulous and cunning, although his sense of impunity got worse with time. He withdrew Shs. 5 million every month from his account, presumably to fulfill his financial obligations. When CBK changed its regulations to prohibit executive directors from owning shares in the banks they ran, he changed his shareholding and routed it through a trust, named after his father. For advisors to this trust, he tapped his younger brother, Salim Janmohammed, and his closest friends in the world, Nina Shah, and Amin Manji. Its beneficiaries, because he had no children, would be his brother’s sons.

For a man who owned 12.5 percent of a bank, got paid millions of shillings a year, and stole tens of billions, Abdulmalek was surprisingly frugal. In his last few years alive, he added a few expensive suits to his wardrobe but nothing exceedingly flashy or extravagant. Even as he crossed from being a millionaire to a billionaire, he still used either of his Mitsubishi cars and not the BMW. The Lancer and the Gallant allowed him a sense of anonymity, and to him at least, gave him a sort of underdog status he could launch whenever he needed to achieve something. The only things he ever splashed on were Cartier watches, Montblanc pens, and three trips to Thailand every year.

What Abdulmalek did during these holiday trips is sketchy, although they seem to tie in with a crucial layer of his drawn-out fraud. The clues from his emails and chits for transfers made to two companies owned by controversial businessmen suggest they had something on him. The most likely was that they had witnessed, and perhaps recorded, the mans dark side in Bangkok and Phuket.

***

The person who was most shocked by Abdulmalek Janmohammed’s death was probably Abdulmalek himself. For 13 long years, he had become the invincible man, running a fraud so intricate only he and a few others knew of its real extent. His psychopathic sense of impunity had only grown in recent years and yet, billions of shillings later, he was still a free man. But that came to a head the day he keeled over and died.

In mid-September last year, Abdulmalek came down with what he thought was a bad flu. It slowed him down but didn’t keep him from maintaining most of his schedule. On Tuesday the 15th, he left the bank and headed to Capital Club, upstairs, to interview someone from a rival bank. They sat at the bar.

Barely 10 minutes into the conversation, Abdulmalek first felt nauseated and light headed. Before he could stop it, he vomited in his mouth, closing it in with his hand as he ran to the bathroom. He finished and walked back, apologizing to his company. When, a few minutes in, his heartbeat increased and then a debilitating pain shot through his chest, he must have known he was dying. The jolt of the pain threw him back on his seat, clutching his chest and turning his skin a visible pale blue. Whatever this was, he could not buy it off or threaten it away.

The man he had been sitting with and the wait staff carried the now motionless man on his seat to the lift and down to the floor of the bank he ran and robbed. If anything was to be done, his loyal secretary of nearly two decades would decide.

Nearly an hour after he suffered his first heart attack, Abdulmalek Janmohammed was driven into the Aga Khan University Hospital. Doctors stabilized his heart but his brain had already, at this point, been starved of oxygen for almost sixty minutes. That evening, he had two more heart attacks while in the Intensive Care Unit. With the third cardiac arrest that day, his heart stopped. Between the first and last heart attacks, someone filed an application to liquidate a company he owned with his brothers, Janco Investment (UK).

Everyone and everything around him worked in silos such that he was the only one with a complete picture. The security agents he used to intimidate his colleagues and enemies hardly knew what he was actually playing at. Nor did his employees or even most of his business partners. His employees cant remember ever sitting at strategy and review meetings as a team. Instead, he met each of them individually, and would not know where in the pecking order they really fell. Even when they were moving different parts of his 15-year-long scam, many of them never knew how or what was actually happening.

Abdulmalek’s third tool was the most ingenious, loaded free reign. When his former executives broke down the scandal to the board, and in turn, to the world, a lot of things made sense. If you worked for him, you could do whatever you wanted. You could come to work at whatever time you wanted, and dress however you liked. If you ran a department, that was your little kingdom to rule. But there was a catch, that you only had this free reign if you did exactly when he wanted when he wanted it done. Everyone around him, including Naeem Shah, the Head of Credit, and James Kaburu, the Chief Financial Officer, understood this. Every once in a while, handwritten chits would appear on their desks asking for money to be transferred to particular accounts. Entries would be hidden by manipulating the accounting software, allowing for Abdulmalek to produce three different books of accounts. He had the real one showing the missing money. The Board got one, and CBK, as the regulator, the third.

***

As a lifelong bachelor with no hobbies, Abdulmalek was a creature of habit, thriving in a set schedule that allowed him to control everything around him. A contradiction of a man, he believed, especially in the last few years of his life, that the only rules that mattered were the ones he made.

Every morning, at 4 am, he and his mom would be driven to the mosque at Parklands for prayers. By 7:30 am, he and his confidante, his Head of Treasury Nina Shah, would be seated at Capital Club, in the same building as the banks headquarters in Westlands, for breakfast. Then they would go downstairs to the office for the day. Every morning or lunch time, depending on his schedule, he drove to a city hotel to swim or to exercise in the gym.

His friendship with the sari-wearing Nina Shah was a vital part of his day. Nina, as Head of Treasury, had insurmountable powers within the bank. In their email conversations where Abdulmalek and another good friend, Amin Manji, affectionately call her Ninabel, she appears as more a close friend than an employee. Born and brought up in Kisumu, she had worked for another controversial bank, Delphis Bank, owned by another Kisumu-born Asian, Ketan Somaia, before moving to Imperial Bank. The bank is most famous for having been Goldenberg’s banker for a time during the height of that scandal. Delphis was eventually sold and rebranded to Oriental Commercial Bank but Nina was thriving at Imperial Bank by then. She was not only powerful now but she was the MD’s confidante and, arguably, one of his few real friends.

Outside of his childhood friend and business partner, Amin Manji and Nina, Abdulmalek didn’t have much of a social life. He never went out but for one social gathering a week. At such gatherings, he had a single beer and left, every time for many years, at exactly 10:30 PM. Every Sunday, he would be driven to Amin Manji’s house in Muthaiga for lunch. The schedule only changed for travel, again always meticulously planned, and emergencies.

Even his accounts show an almost obsessive pattern. With his money, Abdulmalek’s skills as a banker were not blunted by his decade-long fraud. Instead, he was ever the more meticulous and cunning, although his sense of impunity got worse with time. He withdrew Shs. 5 million every month from his account, presumably to fulfill his financial obligations. When CBK changed its regulations to prohibit executive directors from owning shares in the banks they ran, he changed his shareholding and routed it through a trust, named after his father. For advisors to this trust, he tapped his younger brother, Salim Janmohammed, and his closest friends in the world, Nina Shah, and Amin Manji. Its beneficiaries, because he had no children, would be his brother’s sons.

fti-20 imperial bank audit report

A screengrab of page 20 of Imperial Bank’s audit report

For a man who owned 12.5 percent of a bank, got paid millions of shillings a year, and stole tens of billions, Abdulmalek was surprisingly frugal. In his last few years alive, he added a few expensive suits to his wardrobe but nothing exceedingly flashy or extravagant. Even as he crossed from being a millionaire to a billionaire, he still used either of his Mitsubishi cars and not the BMW. The Lancer and the Gallant allowed him a sense of anonymity, and to him at least, gave him a sort of underdog status he could launch whenever he needed to achieve something. The only things he ever splashed on were Cartier watches, Montblanc pens, and three trips to Thailand every year.

What Abdulmalek did during these holiday trips is sketchy, although they seem to tie in with a crucial layer of his drawn-out fraud. The clues from his emails and chits for transfers made to two companies owned by controversial businessmen suggest they had something on him. The most likely was that they had witnessed, and perhaps recorded, the mans dark side in Bangkok and Phuket.

***

The person who was most shocked by Abdulmalek Janmohammed’s death was probably Abdulmalek himself. For 13 long years, he had become the invincible man, running a fraud so intricate only he and a few others knew of its real extent. His psychopathic sense of impunity had only grown in recent years and yet, billions of shillings later, he was still a free man. But that came to a head the day he keeled over and died.

In mid-September last year, Abdulmalek came down with what he thought was a bad flu. It slowed him down but didn’t keep him from maintaining most of his schedule. On Tuesday the 15th, he left the bank and headed to Capital Club, upstairs, to interview someone from a rival bank. They sat at the bar.

Barely 10 minutes into the conversation, Abdulmalek first felt nauseated and light headed. Before he could stop it, he vomited in his mouth, closing it in with his hand as he ran to the bathroom. He finished and walked back, apologizing to his company. When, a few minutes in, his heartbeat increased and then a debilitating pain shot through his chest, he must have known he was dying. The jolt of the pain threw him back on his seat, clutching his chest and turning his skin a visible pale blue. Whatever this was, he could not buy it off or threaten it away.

The man he had been sitting with and the wait staff carried the now motionless man on his seat to the lift and down to the floor of the bank he ran and robbed. If anything was to be done, his loyal secretary of nearly two decades would decide.

Nearly an hour after he suffered his first heart attack, Abdulmalek Janmohammed was driven into the Aga Khan University Hospital. Doctors stabilized his heart but his brain had already, at this point, been starved of oxygen for almost sixty minutes. That evening, he had two more heart attacks while in the Intensive Care Unit. With the third cardiac arrest that day, his heart stopped. Between the first and last heart attacks, someone filed an application to liquidate a company he owned with his brothers, Janco Investment (UK).

PART TWO: The three-pronged plunder

For a man used to getting his way, the last three years of Abdulmalek’s life must have felt completely strange.

At 6:03 pm on 5th April, 2012, someone sent an anonymous email to Central Bank, the National Police, the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission, the judiciary, the Financial Post, Royal Media, and about 10 others. The subject line was “Imperial Bank Frauds & Scandals.

Sent from imperialbankstaff@gmail.com, the email detailed different layers of scandals going on within the bank. The sender clearly had enough insider knowledge to know about 8 accounts that had received unsecured loans. He or she also mentioned that ‘the MD has secret funds abroad consisting of these embezzled funds.’ In one short, clearly hurriedly written email, the whistleblower suggested, without knowing, the three main layers of what had been happening at the bank for a decade: the black hole, Thailand, and the chama.

***

Nothing much happened after that email. A Central Bank employee did get in touch with the bank, asking for details on the different accounts. James Kaburu, as Imperial Bank’s CFO, downplayed the issues, keeping Abdulmalek copied in the supervisory correspondence. Then there was radio silence.

Two months later, Central Bank of Kenya published the revised prudential guidelines; this may have been coincidental but two of the guidelines directly affected Abdulmalek’s hold on Imperial Bank. One was aimed at reducing the hold principal shareholders have on banks. At least half of all the non-executive seats would have to be independent directors. Directors who didn’t own shares in the bank and had done no business with the bank for at least five years. These directors would head all critical committees, most importantly the audit and credit committees.

For the first time since 1993, the bank got new directors independent of the founding families and entities. The board hadn’t changed much in those 21 years and the founding directors seem to have had a soft spot for Abdulmalek. He had built them a bank after all and had, it seemed then, protected and grown their investment. Now there would be six new sets of eyes who didn’t see him as anything more than a Managing Director. They would, and they did, ask him more questions.

But that was a less pressing problem. The other rule that directly affected him was that bank executives and executive directors could now not own more than 5 percent of the banks they ran. If they wanted to continue serving, they had to sell part of their stake. Ever the brilliant banker, Abdulmalek transferred the entirety of his stake in the bank, 12.5 percent held under Janco Investments, to the newly created Abdulsultan R. Janmohammed Trust. The trust fund’s advisors would be his younger brother, Salim Janmohammed, and his friends, Nina Shah and Amin Manji. Its beneficiaries would be his brothers’ children. With a single stroke of genius he had beaten the system for the umpteenth time. On paper it look like he was no longer a shareholder of the bank.

All these changes began to weigh down on Abdulmalek in late 2014. He had always been on top of things, and his ability to compartmentalize and manipulate people had always saved him. Even with the hole he had been digging into the bank he built, it still seemed to be growing. It was now the 17th largest bank in the country with over 50, 000 customers. From a small hire purchase arm, Imperial Bank now employed 590 people across Kenya and Uganda.

Below this image of success, something bigger and patently illegal was happening.

***

On September 21st, just six days after Abdulmalek Janmohammed keeled over and died, his appointed successors, Naeem Shah and James Kaburu, walked into the chairman’s office with more than just whistles in their mouths, but with evidence in tow.

Naeem had succeeded Abdulmalek as the Managing Director while Kaburu, former Chief Finance Officer, became the Deputy Managing Director. As the new sheriffs in town, they had two choices. They could continue the ruse Abdulmalek had started or they could plead with the board to save them from themselves. They chose the latter.

Imperial Bank Part 2 Pic 1.jpg

One of the explosive things Naeem Shah handed to the board was a treasure trove of handwritten chits. The chits, dating back to as early as 2002, had instructions to move money from and across various accounts. To get his message across, Abdulmalek would use his Montblanc pens to write instructions to his minions. He must have felt smart, knowing the paper would not create as serious a trail as an email would. But Naeem wasn’t throwing them away. Instead, he secretly filed them, knowing that one day the ruse would run its course. If it did, he would have clear evidence that he hadn’t moved the money on his own volition. It was a trail, and a bloody one.

***

The Black Hole

Sometime in 2001, either Abdulmalek or Nina Shah moved KShs. 400 million from the bank’s coffers to the account of a fish processing company called WE Tilley (Muthaiga) Ltd. That single transaction started a chain of events that only ended with Abdulmalek’s heartbeat, almost fourteen years later.

By the time it was over, WE Tilley, a relatively small fish processing company, had received KES 15 billion through its accounts at Diamond Trust Bank (DTB) and Fidelity Bank. The amount had accumulated interest, totaling KES 34 billion. But the black hole of Imperial Bank’s monies was and still is sketchy. It doesn’t make sense that such a small business would need capital injections of KES 80 million on average, on a daily basis. On a single day in May 2015, the company moved Shs. 4 billion into their account at DTB. It was from different sources, making the sack of Imperial Bank part of something much bigger.

But who is W.E. Tilley?

WE-Tilley.png

***

The same year the first transaction of Ksh. 400 million happened, an account holder at another young bank, Charterhouse Bank, received USD 25 million from Liechtenstein. It was a suspicious transaction because the account holder, Crucial Properties, ran a minor eatery in Nairobi and had nothing to justify receiving such a vast amount of money. The investigators and the man who presented himself as the director of the company, Humphrey Kariuki, then claimed the money had actually come from the tax haven of Jersey. Or New Jersey in the United States, depending on who was telling the story. It was for ‘development’, Kariuki claimed.

Still, the transaction triggered an international investigation and Central Bank froze the account. The entire thing went to court and after a series of ridiculous mishaps, such as not agreeing on where the money had come from, the court lifted the freeze order. In less than 12 hours, all the money was gone.?Three years later, a suspicious fire at Charterhouse Bank headquarters burnt down all the records prior to April 2004, wiping out the trail of such unexplained transactions that had taken place at the bank.

When Charterhouse Bank was eventually closed in 2006 on suspicions of money laundering, a key account that was investigated was W.E. Tilley. The relatively small family business had received 5.89 billion in its accounts while its books showed it had only made sales of Shs. 1.35 billion. The revelation in Parliament, by Shadow Finance minister Billow Kerrow, also mentioned a few other fish companies, including Primecatch, Mara Fish Packers and Victoria Fish Packers, all of whom would reappear nine years later in the Imperial Bank scandal.

There was most likely a connection bigger than W.E. Tilley between Charterhouse and Imperial Bank, as Abdulmalek’s plunder of the latter was then just picking up steam. From the WikiLeaks on investigations into Charterhouse, W.E. Tilley seemed to be a conduit for money as opposed to a final destination. Where the money was headed remains a mystery.

***

W.E. Tilley was registered on March 21st, 1969 and was initially involved in the meat business. At some point, the company focused exclusively on processing and shipping the Nile Perch fish. At the start of the sack of Imperial Bank, the fish processing company was headed by the Jessa don, Aziz Ali Haiderali Jessa. After he died on 17th August, 2005, at Prince Ally Hospital in Mumbai, his wife, Nargis, and brother Zulkafir became the administrators of his vast estate. 99 percent of WE Tilley went to Aziz’s son Nashir Jessa, with the other stake being held by other members of the larger Jessa family. The connection with Abdulmalek continued under the new regime within W.E. Tilley, and even thrived in subsequent years.

The relationship between Abdulmalek Janmohammed and the original patriarch of the Jessa family, Aziz Jessa, most likely began through the former’s proactive search for relationships with aging dons. W.E. Tilley bought trucks at Simba Corp where Abdulmalek had set up the hire purchase department that became Imperial Bank. Once in this relationship, Abdulmalek found a conduit for his money, and escalated it after that single transaction in 2001.

Even now, no one knows for sure why W.E Tilley needed, or did with, all that money. At Charterhouse, the discrepancies suggested money laundering. The 2001 transaction had triggered an investigation into the bank, eventually showing that the Charterhouse’s 20, 000 accounts were, in fact, owned by not more than 200 people. The bank moved and hid money for people, and helped businesses evade taxes. This must have been going on for many years as the 2001 transaction only became public information after the FBI started investigating the account. WE Tilley’s role was one of the major ones, as the money it had moved through its accounts at Charterhouse did not tally with their receipt books.

With Naeem’s treasure trove of chits, its now possible to explain some of the money WE Tilley had in its accounts. From at least 2002, from the physical evidence, Abdulmalek Janmohammed had his executives move large sums of money to WE Tilley’s accounts. The reason for the money remains unexplained, and since Abdulmalek himself started an entirely independent thread to enrich himself, still doesn’t make sense.

Panic set in after Abdulmalek died and the Imperial Bank scandal was exposed. W.E Tilley quickly sent out an official promise to pay back the bank KES 10 billion, half of it in assets. Central Bank ignored the confession, choosing to recover only half of that. They instead wanted the surviving shareholders to raise Shs. 20 billion in cash, and an equivalent amount in security. W.E Tilley would, again, survive. Imperial Bank’s shareholders then moved to court.

***

The Bangkok X-Files

The second layer in the sack of Imperial Bank seems to have started in Thailand. Two names stand out in this, Pankaj Somaia and Raj Devani. After a few trips to Thailand together Abdulmalek JanMohammed started paying them off through two companies, Jade Petroleum and Adra International and a subsidiary, Metro Petroleum.

Pankaj Somaia and Raj Devani are related to two of Kenyas most infamous fraudsters. Raj’s uncle, Yagnesh Devani, escaped from Kenya after the Triton Scandal in 2009. Raj has himself been involved in a number of controversies. In May 2014, for example, he went unhinged during an aerial game flight on a helicopter and started attacking the back seat. He claimed his children had been kidnapped and stashed in the cargo hold. Once the chopper crash landed in the bushes of the Maasai Mara, he went on a rampage, causing damage worth Shs. 15 million to the aircraft before he was finally restrained.

helicopter.png

Like his uncle Yagnesh, Raj is involved in the oil business through Jade Petroleum which sells fuel to Rwanda and Congo. He is also a director at Adra International Limited, which formed an important core of the second layer of the fraud. Jade Petroleum was incorporated in 2003. The company, together with its sister company, Metro, received Shs. 3.5 Billion from Imperial Bank and was also audited by the bank’s auditors, PKF.

This layer also involved a man called Pankaj Somaia, also a director at Jade Petroleum. The Somaia name was tarnished by the scandals of their most infamous son, Ketan ‘King Con’ Somaia, who is currently serving time in the UK. While Ketans empire began its slow but sure road to collapse, his cousin, Pankaj Somaia, was named in the Kroll Report as one of the wheeler-dealers of State House. Moi and his cronies would regularly use Kenyan Asians as frontmen to hide the monies they were looting from the public coffers.

The Somaia link brings to mind another scandal, of a bank called Delphis Bank that Ketan Somaia bought in 1991. One of Delphis bank’s scandals was moving money for Exchange Bank, owned by yet another of Kenya’s infamous sons, Kamlesh Pattni. Delphis Bank was Goldenberg’s banker during the height of the fraud. Ketan eventually sold Delphis Bank as his financial troubles escalated. The bank became what we now know as Oriental Commercial Bank. From Delphis, Abdulmalek had gotten a confidante, Nina Shah.

Abdulmalek, ever the diligent banker, kept meticulous records of his disbursements to his friends, although not the reasons for making them. The accounts with Pankaj and Raj show some interesting transactions. They made the Imperial Bank MD pay for their upkeep with supermarket shopping, their staff payrolls and even their DSTV bills. An email received by the bank in October 2014 had a list of creditors that Adra wanted Imperial Bank to pay. The list had all the costs of its Nairobi and Mombasa offices including rent, water, stationery, alarm services, internet, air conditioning, fuel, garage, a bank loan, and credit cards.

adra-list.png

One email conversation from 2012 shows curt demands from Rajs accountant to an Imperial Bank executive. The discussion centers around cashflow. Ahmed, the accountant, wants Kshs 10 million in USD and Kenya Shillings and gives Vishvesh deadlines for making the submissions. In April 2015, five months before Abdulmalek died, Adra International sent its payroll to Imperial Bank to sort out. Raj Devani’s salary was the highest at KES 12 million while the lowest paid employee earned KES 11, 440. The payroll included statutory payments and even a 3, 000 bob remittance to the Higher Education Loans Board.

The most interesting conversation happened in 2012 and centered around a 74 million mortgage that Adra International had taken from Prime Bank for a house in Runda. Raj Devani was behind on 4 payments totaling KES 11 million. It had also attracted costs of over 3 million for legal and debt recovery. Abdulmalek approved the bank transfers from Imperial Bank’s coffers that stopped the auction.

No one but the three knew for sure what Somaia and Devani had on Abdulmalek. The most likely thing was video evidence of one of their trips to Thailand, showing the Imperial Bank MD in an act of debauchery. Whatever it was must have been scandalous or serious enough because Abdulmalek sustained his friends and their businesses for a few years.

***

The Chama

The soft-spoken banking executive with a sly smile eventually got in on his own fraud. Perhaps the initial motivation was to find ways of returning the money to the bank. Or it was simply the start of the scandal, as he sought to build himself and his family an empire of their own. Now in his 40s and heading a bank of which he only owned 12.5 percent, he must have sought to rekindle his Midas touch of the early 1990s.

At the heart of this layer was The Accountant, a shrewd man known as Shriram Phadke. The only thing known about him, despite his critical role in the raid on Imperial Bank, is that he worked, or still works, for Mini Group Limited. Mini Group, established in 1983, is a consortium of companies whose most popular brands include Supa Loaf and the Butali Sugar Mills Ltd. It owns businesses in trading, construction, real estate, financing and food processing.

amin

Amin Manji

The Accountant filled this role because his boss, the business magnate Amin Manji, was Abdulmalek’s childhood friend and business partner. From their email conversations, Amin comes off as Abdulmalek’s opposite, at least in personality. Hes more expressive, sometimes saying more than he should. At one time, he copies Nina and Abdulmalek into a conversation he was having on whether to undergo a 3D liposuction. Still, conversations with his acquaintances portray a modest, successful self-made man who has built a business empire across several sectors. Despite his being introverted, its clear Abdulmalek respected his friend and, over time, loaned him money too.

After the Imperial Bank saga exploded, Amin Manji emerged as one of the most important cogs in the wheel that dug a hole into depositor’s savings at the bank. He was crucial in most deals, and carried out extensive transactions on the Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE) on behalf of the group through their stock portfolio vehicle, Goodwill Nairobi. His bank account at Imperial Bank did nothing but trade in the stock exchange, and the day after Abdulmalek died, he quickly organized a meeting with Nina Shah.

shriram

The Accountant

One of the most interesting, and most blatantly illegal, uses of Abdulmalek’s position as The Banker was a transaction that took place in September 2012. The group had been hemorrhaging money at the stocks so they came up with a plan. In an email from The Accountant sent at 4:25 on September 13th, 2012, the plan is to buy a property for Amin Manji in Kajiado. Instead of paying cash, The Accountant drew a bank undertaking and sent it to The Banker. The undertaking was to offer Amin security for the purchase instead of paying a cash deposit. Shriram drafted the letter and sent it, even marked with areas for “On Imperial Bank Letterhead.” All Abdulmalek had to do, and did, was to place the letterhead, print, and sign.

Another cog in the wheel was a man called Karim Jamal. Little is known about KJ, as the cabal knew him, but that he was once one of the most successful stockbrokers in Kenya. When he invested, he went big, often biting more than he could afford. He eventually lost a fortune as stocks of key listed companies such as Uchumi tanked, losing with it his assets as his creditors came calling. From the email conversations where The Accountant asks, rather incessantly, for details on transactions on the stock exchange, its clear KJ’s role was peripheral. The others didn’t trust him because they knew he was shifty. He needed money so he could trade, but he would sometimes ignore The Accountants emails for days despite the large amounts of money at stake.

In another email, Shriram asks Imperial Bank to transfer some money from one account to another, held under the name Richardson and David. Little was known about Richardson and David until October 2015, the month after Abdulmalek died, when the company filed a case challenging the decision to close down another bank, Dubai Bank. Dubai Bank was also closed for running a parallel banking system. Richardson and David held an account with Shs. 142 million at the bank, and is still fighting its liquidation. Even more interesting is that it was The Accountant who was handling monetary transactions for the engineering and supplies company.

***

While he was alive, Abdulmalek Janmohammed built a bank and then dug himself a hole big enough to destroy his life’s work. But he was gone now.

Part 3: Reel Them In

Abdulmalek Janmohammed was a smart man, no doubt, but the banking system had already seen many men and women much smarter than him. They had made mistakes and been caught, and he intended to stay a free man.

So how did he manage to survive for so long without getting caught?

***

Abdulmalek entered the Kenyan banking sector a few years after a man called Andrew Ngumba was caught in a fraud almost similar to the sack of Imperial Bank. Ngumba, after whom Ngumba Estate is named, was a politician who served as an MP and the mayor of Nairobi. In the late 1970s, Ngumba entered the financial market with a bank called Rural Urban Credit Finance Ltd. It was a runaway success, offering loans to small businesses and matatu owners.

In 1984, Central Bank of Kenya inspectors, most likely acting on a tip-off, raided Ngumbas offices at Ngumba House on Tom Mboya Street. They carted away mountains of files, most of them relating to the bank and a few other microfinance units he ran. In the records they found a 140 million shillings black hole, triggering a chain of events that ended up breaking the Kenyan banking system. Ngumba’s mistake, it would seem now, was that he got reckless and let his vanity make him feel invincible. He had trusted the veracity of his own wits over networks, and soft blackmail.

When a young Abdulmalek Janmohammed walked into Diamond Trust Bank as a management trainee a few years later, the Ngumba case was still a fresh lesson. It had morphed by then into an international incident, roping in at least two European countries and Kenya. For Abdulmalek, that experience was a key lesson into how not to get caught.

***

If you worked under Abdulmalek Janmohammed, he could pay, play and fire you at will. Every day was a chance to cement a form of control on his employees, to keep them in awe of him. Only he had a 360-degree view of the bank.

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A sketch of the intricate web of The Sack of Imperial Bank. Credit: @Blackorwa

His is bank’s internal audit office fell in this category. The 2012 whistleblower email most likely came from a middle manager, either within the internal or external auditor. The main ruse itself was carried out at the very top. Naeem Shah, as Head of Credit, would move the money. James Kaburu, as the CFO, would be the guy to make the books balance. Using the accounting software Flexcube, Kaburu tweaked and played with the numbers to make sure only a few keen eyes would ever notice. Sometimes he made errors and had to chase down the records from the human beings who had received them.

Its hard now to establish when or how Abdulmalek figured out that he could have the software do the hard work for him. Or who suggested it. At some point in the mid-2000s, Abdulmalek sent a few mid-level IT staff to India to learn how to tamper with the core banking data platform. It was an investment, seeing that the amounts of money he was siphoning already would need to be covered up. For as long as he was alive, the book would always seem to balance. That is, the books he shared with the world.

***

When the man who gave Abdulmalek Janmohammed a bank died in 2013, he still believed Imperial Bank was a healthy investment. It had only grown in its two decades of existence, and it would still enjoy such remarkable leadership for a while longer. Abdul Karim’s seat at the head of the table went to one of his sons, Alnashir Popat. Alnashir is the man who would lead his fellow directors to CBK to report the black hole they had found in the bank. It was him who would make a sorry sight before news cameras while apologizing for failing the banks depositors.

When Alnashir Popat and his fellow directors walked into the dull imposing building on Haile Selassie Avenue, no one believed they had had nothing to do with such a long-running fraud. The Banking Fraud Investigations Department was immediately called in. All the directors passports were confiscated and their financial records investigated. A fraud investigator recently intimated, on condition of anonymity, that if the board was in on it, then they must have hidden their share of the loot incredibly well.

The one thing anyone who knew Abdulmalek says about him is that he was confident to a fault. Since he was a guarded, private man, he always seemed to exude confidence in himself and his content. With his peers and the older men within the Imperial Bank board, he combined it with flawless lies. Before the appointment of new directors in 2012, he made sure none of the other directors knew the bank better than him. It was his empire, and he would have reached.

Even bank depositors still don’t understand how the body that should have provided the first line of any real defense could have failed them so badly. For the board, the greatest sin was naivety and over-trusting a man just because he said he knew his bank. He was the only executive board member for the more than two decades he led Imperial Bank and, using this power, played on everyone’s confidence in him. Whether any other board member was involved in the ruse has not been established, but the collective board’s failure to stop the man for nearly 14 years remains its greatest blot.

***

The one thing Abdulmalek Janmohammed knew about human beings is that we have one fatal flaw; greed. He knew everyone had a price, everyone could be bought for just the right amount. If not of money then of the ability to make more than they already had.
This knowledge worked perfectly on the man who led the audit firm that should have called the cops on him. During the day, Atul Shah worked and still works as the CEO of PKF, one of the top-tier audit firms in the world. IBL’s books passed through PKF’s hands and all their reports came out clean in those 14 years. They even gave the bank a clean bill of health months before the story broke.

When Abdulmalek died, that wall came crashing. His fellow directors called in the big dogs, a forensic investigation firm that, for 6 straight days, turned the bowels of Imperial Bank upside down looking for the loot. They didn’t find it, but they found smoking guns lying all over.

In at least two companies, one of them Mundika Sugar Company and the other, Astonfield Ltd., the MD of Imperial Bank and the man who was supposed to audit him were equal partners. Astonfield had an unsecured, unauthorized loan of Kshs. 263 million at the time of Abdulmalek’s death. One company profile only defined the CEO of the auditing firm PKF, Atul PK Shah as A well-accomplished consultant in the region and has wide range of reputable corporates on his client list. It was a vague description, meant to be as ambiguous as possible. In news stories, this connection would disappear in the details, with Atul Shahs full name written out to appear as if it was someone else.

But it gets even stranger. In digging through Abdulmalek’s lists upon lists of special loans, the name ‘Rajan Shah’ appears among borrowers with unsettled loans. Rajan was the partner at PKF in charge of handling Imperial Bank. The loan itself, amounting to Shs. 2.995 million was actually given in 2006 and was never repaid. Abdulmalek, again being a diligent banker and an investor in human relationships, kept a record of it for nearly a decade. Since it was never paid, and never recalled, it seems to have been the thread that kept the auditing firm churning out clean bills of health.

It was genius.

Abdulmalek had long figured that the only way to beat the system was to rope it in. Even if anyone within the audit firm ever found the hole, that story would never make it out. The strange email from 2012 most likely came from an auditor, internal or external or staff whose conscience had gotten the best of them. In either case, the reason was that it was impossible to go through the normal channels.

***

Abdulmalek understood that at the top of the pyramid stood the mecca of Kenya’s finance. The dull building on Haile Selassie Avenue that homes Kenya’s central bank was, in fact, the only place in the world that ever really scared him. But even with its sharp teeth and far-reaching claws, it was a human system. And human system have a flaw, humans.
In a rather cleverly hidden folder in his Google Drive, Abdulmalek kept a list of special loans. One sheet within the list was clearly marked CBK loans. He didn’t keep the names, just what looked like codes he gave his loanees. He was paying off people within the bank by giving them money when they needed it, but with strings attached. He never really expected the money back, people in his position never really do, but he expected them to pick his calls even if it was after midnight. If money was flowing their way, they were his to control.

An email submitted in Court between IBL’S CFO and a senior manager gives a clue of how high the mess went, and how ridiculously reckless it was. In it, Kaburu, the CFO, asks the manager to delete some entries from the top 50 borrowers list. The contents of that list, crucial for every bank or any group that handles loans, changes depending on where in the files you find it. The one that made it to the board is not the one that ends up on the CBK side.

The third highest borrower, according to what is so far regarded the most credible list, was a company called Italbuild Imports Limited. Italbuild was, at the time it took a 1.2 billion shillings loan, the company renovating Central Bank headquarters. The loan was unauthorized but the bank transfers left a trail. For Abdulmalek, these numerous links were not simple loans to friends and friends of friends, he was expanding his network.

In Kenya’s already murky financial world, Abdulmalek built a web around him where he was the Don. He knitted his ropes so smartly that the new governor has had come to publicly ask for additional time severally. If he cuts the wrong thread, he would have to hang his own people. But it was even bigger than that.

***

There is small seaside beach resort town on the Gulf of Thailand called Hua Hin. On one of its magnificent white sands beaches, there is a destination spa that calls itself “The Haven of Life.” Its official name is the Chiva-Som International Health Resort. As a health and wellness spa, it focuses on giving every guest a total life transformation. It attracts celebrities and business executives from all over the world, eager to not just get away from all the noise, but to also heal and meditate.

In August 2011, Abdulmalek Janmohammed sent them a high-profile client.

For the five days between August 24th and August 29th 2011, this luxury spa hosted three Kenyan guests. Only one name was recorded, Mrs. Ndungu. Her company was only recorded next to her name as 2 Pax. 21 days before this, a lady called Nancy Ndungu had sent an email from her official company mail to Anne Mboya, Abdulmalek’s trusted personal assistant of 19 years. Anne printed the email, hand wrote on a space on the right MD: FYI-Please advice.

In the email, the sender tells Anne to inform Mr. Janmohammed “…that we shall be staying at the Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit Hotel from the 21st to the 24th. The organisers of the (wellness) conference have kindly agreed to drive us to the resort. The only assistance we now need is on the return trip on 29th August.”

Bangkok.png

The Bangkok Retreat: Screengrab of a printed copy of the email, submitted in court as part of a Judicial Review application.

There was almost nothing suspicious to this email at first but a quick connection of who exactly Nancy Ndungu is, and who her husband was at the time, changes everything. Nancy Ndungu is Prof. Njuguna Ndungu’s wife. At the time this email conversation was happening, the professor was the head of Central Bank. He was the man charged with regulating the market and rooting out rogue bankers like Abdulmalek.

At some point in the weeks before this email was sent, Professor Njuguna and his wife had intimated to Abdulmalek that they would visit Thailand in August for a conference. Perhaps he, in his closed groups, spoke about his frequent trips to the Asian country. When the couple told him they would be making the trip, Abdulmalek must have recommended that the high-profile couple visit the health spa. Mrs. Ndung’u, in the email, refers to “the resort” indicating a prior offline conversation. For the couple, it was a chance to heal. For Abdulmalek, it was a chance to acquire power over the only person in the world who could destroy him. It was an investment into not getting caught.

But Abdulmalek was not just giving directions to his friends. He also sent a credit card authorization, complete with scanned copies of his personal credit card, to the health resort. He filled and signed the authorization, and circled the part that allowed All Charges to be charged to the credit card. The guests would be Mrs. Ndung’u and her company of two.

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A screengrab of a printed copy (of the scan) of the credit card authorisation to the destination resort spa. Also part of the Judicial review application.

As Abdulmalek handed over the signed authorization to Anne Mboya to scan and send, he smiled. He had caught a big fish. In fact, the biggest of them all.

***

Abdulmalek’s hand reached out from beyond the grave, making sure that everyone looked guilty. The Board, as the first real line of defense, would automatically have to answer questions from everyone about where the money had gone. The auditor would have to retreat, battling questions as to complicity and other integrity issues. The regulator, in this case, CBK, would be torn between cracking the whip on everyone, including its employees, and saving the bank, or fighting for it to go to the graveyard with all the evidence, killing any chances of successfully untangling his web.

It would have to reach back to its former boss, setting the stage for a deck of cards. For all his faults, one has to admit that Abdulmalek was a master of manipulation. Every interaction with another human being was a chance to rip right off the first chapter of the Godfather. Which he did with utmost foresight. He built a deck of cards that didn’t quite fall to the ground when he did but one that could not survive without him.

The Sack of Imperial Bank is still an ongoing story, with twists and threads emerging every day. One of the most recent ones was a judicial review application, essentially a complaint by the banks shareholders that the receivers banks, DTB, and KCB, were raiding the bank of its employees. It also raised conflict of interest issues, as DTB’s CEO serves on the board of the Kenya Deposit Insurance Corporation. For depositors who trusted Abdulmalek Janmohammed and his bank with their money, the death of the man was the beginning of a fresh, painful narrative. While alive, he had built them a bank too. A bank that treated its clients like royalty, true to its logo.

Read more at http://owaahh.com/the-sack-of-imperial-bank/

 

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About Akbar Khoja

Giving out free #LessonsInIsmailism.

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