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US Names Kenyan Politician Drug 'Kingpin'

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A Kenyan lawmaker and businessman has been named one of seven so-called “kingpins” targeted by the United States for drug trafficking.

The United States Government has enacted strict sanctions against prominent Kenyan businessman and parliamentarian Harun Mwau, and businesswoman Naima Mohamed Nyakiniywa for their alleged involvement in narcotics trafficking throughout the region.

This is not the first time Mwau has been implicated in drug trafficking. Last year, U.S. Ambassador Michael Ranneberger announced travel sanctions on Kenyan politicians involved in the trade. When Ranneberger’s report was later made public, Mwau, along with parliamentarians Gideon Mbuvi, Hassan Joho and William Kobogo were revealed as targets in the U.S. drugs probe.

Mwau, then serving as Kenya’s assistant minister for trade, stepped down to allow for investigations. After a short probe, Kenyan police released a report exonerating the four politicians and finding no evidence to back the allegations contained in the U.S. report.

As news of the fresh sanctions broke on Thursday, Kenyan Police Commissioner Matthew Iteere backed the earlier findings

“We had no direct evidence to link any of the five people who were mentioned in that report,” he said.

Harun Mwau served as Kenya’s anti-corruption chief in the late 1990s but was sacked after an inquiry raised questions about his personal dealings.

Mwau's personal net worth is estimated at about $300 million. He has various business interests in Nairobi and Kenya’s port city, Mombasa. One of his more notorious holdings is Pepe Enterprises, a shipping container depot which has been alleged in the past to be a transit point for narcotics.

However Commissioner Iteere challenged such claims.

“If they are talking about containers, those containers left. All what you can have is only that type of intelligence information for you to go back and see and go and link them up,” he said.

While little details were given, Iteere also revealed that Nyakiniywa was currently in custody in Tanzania. Reports indicate she was arrested in Dar Es Salaam for drug trafficking.

The two were named along with 5 others from Colombia, Mexico, Afghanistan and Kyrgyzstan.

Under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act, the U.S. government has the right to seize any property held by Mwau or Nyakiniywa in U.S. territory. The act also subjects any American company found doing business with designated “kingpins” to a fine of up to $10 million.

Article by Michael Onyiego, VOA News