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British swindler who was involved in Kenyan media fights
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|British swindler who was involved in Kenyan media fights by Kenyans247(1): Thu 09, July, 2020 09:56pm|
The arrest this week of British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell, daughter of disgraced publishing tycoon Robert Maxwell, gives us an opportunity to look at how her father corrupted Kenyan politics.
Ghislaine is now infamous because of her association with American financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Eppstein, whose finance clients included Saudi Arabian businessman Adnan Khashoggi, the man who at one point owned Kenya’s Ol Pejeta Conservancy.
AK, as he was better known, was also a broker and arms dealer. His dalliance with Kenyan politicians including Charles Njonjo was well-known. He entered the Kenyan scene in 1967 after he bought the Mount Kenya Safari Club in Nanyuki, which was then a known hideout for Western intelligence operatives whose agenda was to tame the influence of the Soviet Union in Africa.
This could be the reason the British press insists AK was a spy.
A billionaire playboy, Khashoggi brought his many girlfriends to Kenya. They included American actress Brooke Shields, whose escapades in Nanyuki were once captured by photojournalist Mohamed Amin when he was commissioned to film an episode of the Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous TV show, indirectly promoting vacation destinations.
Maxwell and the Khashoggi family were business acquaintances. It is on record that the classic Jon Bannenberg–designed super yacht Lady Ghislaine, on which Maxwell committed suicide or was pushed to the sea off the Canary Islands, was designed for one of the Khashoggis.
Maxwell had purchased the yacht, which known as Lady Mona K, for $70 million and renamed it after his after his favourite daughter Ghislaine, now under arrest.
Adnan Khashoggi had another yacht known as Nabila, named after his daughter. It was later sold to businessman Donald Trump, now America’s president, who in turn sold it to its current owner, Saudi business magnate Al-Waleed bin Talal, the man who until last month owned Norfolk Hotel in Nairobi. (He sold it to a Nepalese tycoon, Binod Chaudhary, for Sh2.8 billion.)
Had Maxwell not befriended President Daniel Moi, perhaps we would never have had interest in him. Maxwell was introduced to Moi by his Jewish friends, who used Nicholas Biwott, the powerful minister, to cut deals locally.
But he was a thief and a swindler – a fact that became known after his death. Indeed, he looted millions of pounds from the pension fund of his Mirror Group Newspapers and wiped out all shareholders and left pensioners with nothing but poverty.
Many thought he was immensely rich, but it was discovered that was “shunting money between his companies to give the impression that they were profitable”.
It all started in April 1983, when the ruling party bought Hilary Ngweno’s Nairobi Times and transformed it into a national daily, the Kenya Times, and a Swahili publication, Kenya Leo.
President Moi initially met with Maxwell in October 1987 and asked him to help reinvigorate the party paper. The Kenya Times Media Trust (KTMT) was born after this meeting, with a company known as Kanu Investments holding 55 percent of the shares and Maxwell owning 45 percent.
In 1989, Maxwell agreed to invest £30 million and to modernise KT’s printing press, which would also print exercise books and educational books. It was a good deal.
KTMT’s first chairman was Nairobi’s well-connected lawyer Jared Benson Kangwana, who owned The Mall in Westlands, Nairobi and had interests in the Chester House building along Koinange Street in the city.
During this period, Maxwell also agreed to set up Africa’s third private TV station, Kenya Television Network (KTN). The move surprised many people since Moi did not believe in a free press.
Moi had also promised Maxwell that they would build a 60-storey media complex in Nairobi that would not only house KTMT but also a stock exchange, banks, art galleries, a hotel and shops. Outside, a towering 30-foot statue of President Moi would be erected.
When this became public, on November 24, 1989, Greenbelt Movement leader Wangari Maathai emerged as the most-vocal opponent of this skyscraper, which was to be built inside Uhuru Park.
She started writing letters to donors and to Maxwell. She then filed a lawsuit at the High Court seeking a permanent injunction against the proposed skyscraper. The matter was heard by Justice Norbury Dugdale, who dismissed her request, saying that as a private citizen, she had no locus standi to sue on behalf of the public.
“The only authority empowered to institute such a suit would be the Attorney-General,” the judge said, closing the door on many other public-interest litigations.
Justice Dugdale was the same notorious judge who ruled in 1989 that the Bill of Rights as enshrined in the Constitution was “unenforceable”, thus undermining the judicial system. He had also thrown out lawyer Gitobu Imanyara’s bid to nullify Section 2(a) of the Constitution, which made Kanu the only party.
Maxwell was caught up in all these and was being ridiculed by his business rivals abroad – especially for his dalliance with Moi. To Moi, the flagship $300 million project was now coming a cropper because of Prof Maathai.
Inside Parliament, the local government Minister, William ole Ntimama, sought to give a ministerial statement on Prof Maathai. By then, Greenbelt was not widely known and operated from some makeshift offices in the compound of the Central Police Station in Nairobi (The office was later burnt.).
Prof Maathai had placed an advert in The Standard, then owned by businessman Roland “Tiny” Rowland’s Lonhro, in which she condemned the planned building of the skyscraper.
The advert may have appeared innocent but it was seen in political circles as Rowland’s continued attempt to bring down his commercial nemesis, Robert Maxwell. Tiny Rowland had in 1987 sold his 90 per cent stake in the money-losing Today newspaper to publisher Rupert Murdoch’s News International and not to Maxwell’s Mirror Group Newspapers. All wanted to control African governments.
In Parliament, Ntimama rubbished Prof Mathai’s letter, saying Uhuru Park would be left intact.
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