His victims sue him, but shortly active death threats see them gassing towards the airport, fleeing
By Pascal Owade
Chris Obure is Nairobi’s resident gold scammer. Just four years ago, he conned a Venezuelan lawyer Sh200 million in a botched gold deal. Deals worth less than Sh100 million are for his juniors. Like Kevin Omwenga, his friend who was killed by his bodyguard using Obure’s gun.
Obure and his bodyguard, Robert Bodo, were later arrested for the murder over a deal gone wrong. Obure didn’t appear worried when arraigned in court. It is more of a chance to parade his crisp designer suits, gleaming gold watches, a clean shave concealing premature balding.
Obure is familiar with police stations and court rooms since, to afford his high end lifestyle, some sucker has to be separated from with his millions. Victims are always men. The scamming cartel operates from Kilimani, Nairobi’s capital of drugs, sex dens, gun runners, kidnappings, money laundering, ‘wash-wash’ and murders.
Obure’s victims, mostly foreigners, sue him, but shortly, active death threats see them gassing towards the airport fleeing back to Brazil, Russia, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Australia. Obure cuts deals, pays coppers protection fees. The millions are rarely recovered, no one gets jailed. He has since been released on a Sh2 million bond with sureties of similar amounts in Omwenga’s murder case.
The shooting was linked to millions minted in a gold scam, but not remitted to the kingpins
Officers familiar with the cartel explained that gold scamming is an exclusive crime club: small time beginners pay Obure ‘scamming fees’. Obure in turn pays protection fee to entrenched coppers in case of arrests.
But problems come to those who try shortchanging others. Omwenga had recently acquired a Porsche Panamera worth over Sh10 million. The shooting was linked to millions minted in a gold scam, but not remitted to the kingpins.
Indeed, the Kilimani cartel comprise dapperly dressed crooks using offices with plush carpets and secretaries in mini-skirts, high heels, plunging cleavages. It is here that the ‘Mark’ as scammers call their victims, is taken for their financial throats to be slit.
With his modest education, Chris Obure began from the lower end of the food chain as mtu wa mkono for Paul Kobia, the scammer in-chief. Obure took ‘Marks’ to meetings with government officials, giving dirty deals a clean hand. He would later take the victims to Kobia’s office, a seven bedroom house in Riverside Drive, Nairobi where he would arrange Kobia’s pocket handkerchief.
Obure worked for Paul Kobia for more than 20 years, then became captain of his own scam ship after falling out
Obure would show Kobia photos as proof of meetings with mandarins in government before ensuring the ‘Marks’ didn’t get into Kobia’s office with phones or any recording devices.
Kobia would receive phone calls in which ‘Yes your Excellency!’ featured prominently to impress the ‘Marks.’ Obure would be entrusted with clearing their traffic enroute to their hotel. But there is thinning or little traffic at 10pm in Nairobi! The ‘Marks’ would shortly be crying in the toilet.
Obure worked for Kobia for more than 20 years, rising to Chief Strategist and Director of Business Development at Kobia’s Great Lakes Group of Companies. Then he became the captain of his own scam ship after falling out with Kobia.
It so happened that Obure came across e-mails in which Kobia was demanding Sh20 million from Hong Kong based businessman, Dennis Schmelzenbach. According to court documents, Schmelzenbach was to pay an additional Sh20 million as ‘lift fees’ for 300kg of gold worth Sh500 million.
President Kabila jetted to Nairobi and pressed retired President Mwai Kibaki to help him wrestle his gold from Paul Kobia
Obure sent an e-mail warning him not to send any more money to Kobia who was shortly arrested but late released on Sh500,000 bond.
Death threats saw Obure fleeing to South Africa. That was in 2011 when Kobia was accused by Congolese President Joseph Kabila of stealing his 400kg of gold worth Sh8 billion.
Kabila jetted in person to Nairobi where he pressed retired President Mwai Kibaki to help him wrestle the gold from Kobia.
Shortly, police and KRA officers led by Joseph Cheptarus, KRA Assistant Commissioner for Investigations and Enforcement, raided Kobia’s warehouse in JKIA… but found no gold. A day later, Cheptarus was shot dead outside his house at 1am in Nairobi’s South C estate that February. Four gunmen had abducted the guards and worn their uniform. Then waited for Cheptarus, pumped four slugs into his body.
So how do gold scams work? Well, it starts with a sucker falling for a pitch over the Internet
Kobia denied stealing Kabila’s gold and instead said he got it from the gold mine of a Congolese named Etienne. Kobia’s office was then a seven-bedroom house in Nairobi’s Riverside Drive.
So how do gold scams work?
Well, it starts with a sucker falling for a pitch over the Internet. The sucker agrees to come to Kenya on a tourist visa to see the gold ‘live-live.’ Meetings are in lavishly furnished offices, apartments or five-star hotels. To make suckers feel important, scammers hire police as bodyguards complete with outriders for clearing traffic from the airport.
They meet government officials. Lawyers draw contracts. The suckers are then driven in limos to a warehouse inside JKIA where they pick one bar of gold at random for independent testing.
Then the scam begins with the suckers paying for the gold. But there is a small problem: The plane the suckers used would be intercepted at JIKIA runway unless tax to clear the gold is paid. The suckers would pay. But then officials from the Ministry of Mining would intercept the gold demanding payment of duty and fictitious taxes. The suckers would pay and ‘lift fees’ as well.
Besides gold, scammers also deal in expensive rose oil used in perfumes, selling impounded car and minerals like diamonds and mercury
Eventually the gold would be released only for it to turn into gold coloured metal upon arrival, say in Dubai. The suckers would return to file a police report for being conned. But they will be arrested for working in Kenya using tourist visas which is illegal!
The sucker will pay more to be released on bond, but getting his visa back will mean forking out more quid then death threats will see the sucker coiling his tail towards the airport before another sucker comes calling for his throat to be slit. They are always men!
Besides gold, the scammers also deal in expensive rose oil used in perfumes, selling impounded cars from Mombasa port and minerals like diamonds and mercury. Then there are fake tenders and witchcraft-to bewitch those who conned you to return the money…but after paying, the mganga and his accomplices disappear and you are left looking for another mganga to get the crooked mganga!