Tycoon Punjani admitted to Indian hospital after surgery

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Mombasa tycoon Ali Punjani, who is being sought by police over drug trafficking, is admitted to Asian Heart Institute in India where he underwent open-heart surgery last week, his personal assistant Kakawat Pankaj says.

He said his lawyers will be at his home in Nyali tomorrow to allow police officers to search it.

He was referred to India after a check-up at The Heart Lung Diagnostic Centre in Mombasa. “The above patient (Mr Punjani) was admitted on July 29, 2019 following a heart attack/acute coronary syndrome. An angiogram done showed significant CAD with blocked coronary arteries.

“This is not amenable with angioplasty and he has been advised to undergo coronary artery bypass grafting urgently. This has been arranged at the Asian Heart Institute for next week,” a letter from the diagnostic centre reads.

This development comes barely hours after detectives from the multiagency team on Monday raided his house in Mombasa County in connection to the drugs crackdown at the Coast.

More than 20 police officers, including those from the anti-narcotics unit, arrived at the palatial residence in Nyali suburb at around 2pm.

The officers, who were in plain clothes, went round the posh house with sniffer dogs where they spent more than two hours.

The raid happened a few hours after Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i announced a renewed war on drug dealers. Dr Matiang’i had said the operation would be a “painful one”.

On Monday, detectives inspected the backyard which is facing the Indian Ocean as the dogs went round three high-end vehicles which had been parked in front of the house is located in 1st Avenue.

“We received information that Mr Punjani is involved in drug trafficking. We will not move out of here until we get into the house. We ask him wherever he is to surrender himself to any nearby police station for interrogation,” Mombasa County commander Johnston Ipara said at the time.

Mr Ipara said already they have names of his associates whom they are pursuing in the county.

The house that sits on three acres has a showroom-like parking lot, a swimming pool and a massive garden that lies directly opposite the beach.

Top county police officers including Mr Ipara and Mombasa DCI boss Anthony Muriithi led the operation.

The officers questioned two workers. Police sources told the Nation one of the workers was contracted from Nyali Sun Africa Hotel, which Mr Punjani once owned.

The officers however did not get inside the house as the Nation overheard one of the workers saying “we are not allowed to get inside the house unless a relative is around”.

“A relative has just moved out and we do not have any keys to the house,” the worker told one of the officers who was interrogating her.

Police reports seen by the Nation indicated that an hour before the raid, the said relative left the house in a white vehicle headed to Kwale County.

The Nation learnt that Mr Punjani was out of the country, the workers said he had travelled to India.

A source said Mr Punjani has been in India for treatment in the last two weeks. By the time of going to press, police officers were still camping at the compound.

Mr Punjani was last month mentioned in a New York court by Indian national Vijaygiri Goswami, who has been charged in the foreign country alongside Baktash Akasha and Ibrahim Akasha over drugs trafficking.

In his allegations before the New York court, Mr Goswami described Mr Punjani as a rival drug lord of the Akasha in Mombasa.

Mr Punjani’s name first came to the limelight when he was mentioned in Parliament as a drug suspect by the late Interior minister George Saitoti in 2010 and was being probed over the same.

He was mentioned alongside four politicians in a dossier from the American Embassy to the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission.

In 2017, Mr Punjani was charged in a Mombasa court with fighting in public with the sons of Akasha.

The Mombasa court heard that Mr Punjani, jointly with others not before court, took part in a fight at Rahian Bar and Restaurant. According to the prosecution, the offence was committed on January 1.

Mr Punjani was released on a Sh50,000 bond with a surety of similar amount. The case is still in court.

During the fight, police reports indicated that the Akashas beat up one of Mr Punjani’s men at the club.

The incident left man with “a very bad head injury” and was in a coma for three or four days, according to court reports.

On Monday, Mr Ipara said the ongoing crackdown will not spare anyone. “Whether you are a tycoon or a poor man, we will come for you. Our security minister was clear when we had a meeting with him. We will not spare anyone as instructed,” said Mr Ipara.

Earlier, Lamu police officers revealed that Chief Inspector Shadrack Mumo, who is attached to the Kizingitini Police Station in Lamu East, was the one who was arrested shortly after engaging in negotiations and being paid Sh50,000 to release a drug consignment that had been nabbed at the Mtangawanda Jetty in Lamu East on Sunday.

Mr Mumo is also accused of releasing the suspect, a Mr Swabri, shortly after the negotiations were concluded.

Mr Mumo looked confident, cool, well-connected and undeterred despite having handcuffs throughout the press briefing held by Lamu Police Commander Muchangi Kioi in Lamu Town on Monday.

According to Mr Kioi, OCS Mumo had served at the police station for the past one and a half years. Mr Kioi termed the arrest as a sign that the war on drugs had been intensified.

He said they were also pursuing other police officers from the Kizingitini Police Station who are believed to be complicit in Mr Mumo’s actions.

He said the officer is being interrogated and will face be arraigned soon.

Additional reporting by Kalume Kazungu

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