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BAT ‘proposed’ huge bribe for Mugabe to free jailed spies

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BAT ‘proposed’ huge bribe for Mugabe to free jailed spies


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Cigarette production at the BAT factory in Nairobi. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Leaked documents have revealed that British cigarette maker BAT allegedly proposed a huge bribe to former Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe ahead of his last election in 2013 aimed at seeking freedom for people jailed for collecting business intelligence on its rivals.

A joint probe by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, BBC Panorama and the University of Bath revealed that British American Tobacco (BAT) company could have paid between $300,000 (Sh33 million) and $500,000 (Sh55 million) to the late Mugabe’s Zanu PF party.

The alleged bribe, offered through a third party, was meant to get certain people who were caught spying for BAT in Zimbabwe released from jail.

BAT is one of the dominant companies in Zimbabwe’s tobacco industry and the deal was allegedly part of its efforts to cripple its rivals in the southern African country.

Leaked documents show that at the time, BAT was paying FSS, a South African private security contractor, to counter its rivals in Zimbabwe.

FSS agents were accused of spying on Zimbabwean company Savanna Tobacco, which was owned by Adam Molai, the husband of Mugabe’s niece Sandra Mugabe, and this forced the South African company to rope in a local company to continue doing its dirty work.

Arrested and jailed

By 2012, three directors of the local company were caught and charged with conspiracy to commit robbery.

A plan was allegedly then hatched with BAT’s knowledge to pay bribes to buy the directors’ freedom and protect the conglomerate’s image.

The man who brokered the deal told the journalists investigating the scandal that he had paid a chain of Zimbabwean government officials to secure meetings.

“I had to make it clear that they were going to expect a thick envelope of notes,” the man said.

“I would be given a lump sum of money as an operational budget and out of that I would always give a handshake and nice wodge of cash to the principals just to warm them to the idea.”

One of the documents says that a then top director in Zimbabwe’s feared Central Intelligence Organisation told FSS boss Stephen Botha that “with the upcoming elections” a donation to Zanu PF would pave the way for negotiations to continue.

Charges withdrawn

The directors were released in January 2013 and by March their charges had been officially withdrawn.

Mugabe, who was in a coalition government with then opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, went on to win the July 2013 elections under controversial circumstances.

The elections were the last for the Zimbabwean dictator, who was toppled in a coup in November 2017.

“Robert Mugabe killed 30,000 Zimbabweans in a genocide,” the whistle-blower is quoted saying.

“Absolutely beaten, destroyed, the soul of a nation rippled from itself.

“How on earth would you even consider doing business there and why would you rather, ethically, withdraw and make a statement to that?”

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, BBC Panorama and the University of Bath said BAT did not deny the proposed payment to Mugabe and Zanu PF.

‘Combating illicit trade’

“Our efforts in combating illicit trade have been aimed at helping law enforcement agencies in the fight against the criminal trade in tobacco products,” BAT was quoted saying.

“In 2016, BAT made it public that it was investigating allegations of misconduct and was liaising with the UK Serious Fraud Office (SFO).

“BAT fully cooperated with the SFO’s subsequent investigation, which included allegations relating to South Africa.”

In January this year, the SFO concluded that there was no sufficient evidence for a prosecution.

Mugabe and several Zanu PF leaders, as well as security chiefs, had been under European Union sanctions since the turn of the millennium for alleged human rights violations and electoral fraud.

Bribery claims in Kenya

The UK authorities also conducted a three-year-long probe into claims that BAT Kenya #ticker:BAT ran a systematic bribery syndicate in Nairobi.

SFO began investigating the cigarette company in 2017 after claims it bribed tax officials and legislators in Kenya to undermine anti-smoking laws as well as insiders in a rival company in order to undermine competition.

One of its employees told the BBC’s Panorama programme in 2015 that he had allegedly made such corrupt payments.

In January, SFO said the evidence gathered “did not meet the evidential test for prosecution as defined in the Code for Crown Prosecutors,” and ended the probe.

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KQ resumes Mumbai flights after 4 months

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KQ resumes Mumbai flights after 4 months


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A Kenya Airways aircraft at JKIA. FILE PHOTO | NMG

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Summary

  • Kenya Airways will on Thursday resume flights to Mumbai, ending a four-month hiatus that was occasioned by increased cases of Covid-19 in the Asian state.
  • The airline in a notice to its customers yesterday said it will resume its operations on the route on September 16, 2021 with the first flight departing Jomo Kenyatta International Airport at 7am to arrive in Mumbai at 3:45 pm.

Kenya Airways #ticker:KQ will on Thursday resume flights to Mumbai, ending a four-month hiatus that was occasioned by increased cases of Covid-19 in the Asian state.

The airline in a notice to its customers Monday said it will resume its operations on the route on September 16, 2021 with the first flight departing Jomo Kenyatta International Airport at 7am to arrive in Mumbai at 3:45 pm.

The airline will then resume full operations on the route on September 20, flying three times per week on the Indian route, which is one of the most lucrative destinations on its network.

Passengers on the route will part with Sh46,000 ($419) for one-way air ticket on economy class seats from Nairobi to Mumbai- prices that are relatively the same compared to what it was charging before the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Welcome back onboard! Fly from Nairobi to Mumbai starting Thursday 16th September with normal schedules resuming from Monday 20th September 2021,” said the airline in a notice to its customers yesterday.

KQ Suspended passenger flights to and from Mumbai on April 30 until further notice, following a government directive on travel between India and Kenya due to a Covid-19 crisis in that country.

The airline said on Friday that passengers who had booked tickets after May 1, the date of the last flight from Mumbai to Nairobi, will have to change their plans.

Affected passengers, KQ said, could also take vouchers for the value of their fare for future travel within 12 months.

India has seen soaring infection rates in the recent days, since the discovery of a new virus variant. Last month, India put on lockdown one of the states following a spike in cases of Covid-19.

Other countries that have banned flights to India include France, the UK Bangladesh, Oman and Hong Kong that have banned travel to and from India or asked their nationals coming from the Asian country to isolate themselves in government-approved hotels.

India has so far detected 33,264,175 corona virus cases with the number of deaths hitting 442,874 as at September 13.

A large number of patients from Kenya also travel to India every year for specialised medical treatment, especially cancer care, helping to drive medical tourism in the densely populated country that boasts affordable and easily accessible healthcare.

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Lower import volumes push mitumba prices to new highs

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Lower import volumes push mitumba prices to new highs


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Man pulls a cart loaded with second-hand clothes at Gikomba Market in Nairobi. FILE PHOTO | NMG

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Summary

  • Traders paid Sh100,527 on average per tonne of the used clothes, popularly called mitumba, compared to Sh96,286 the previous year.
  • Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) banned importation of the clothes from late March through mid-August in a bid to contain the spread of the life-threatening coronavirus infections.
  • Findings of the Economic Survey 2021 suggests dealers shipped in 121,778 tonnes of mitumba in 2020, a 34.02 percent fall compared with 2019 and the lowest volumes since 2015.

The average price of a tonne of second-hand clothing items imported into the country crossed the Sh100,000 mark for the first time last year on reduced volumes in the wake of safety protocols and guidelines to curb spread of coronavirus.

Traders paid Sh100,527 on average per tonne of the used clothes, popularly called mitumba, compared to Sh96,286 the previous year.

Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) banned importation of the clothes from late March through mid-August in a bid to contain the spread of the life-threatening coronavirus infections.

Findings of the Economic Survey 2021 suggests dealers shipped in 121,778 tonnes of mitumba in 2020, a 34.02 percent fall compared with 2019 and the lowest volumes since 2015.

Last year’s drop was the first dip since 2011 when 76,533 tonnes were shipped in compared with 80,423 tonnes the previous year, the official data collated by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) shows.

The import bill for the merchandise amounted to Sh12.24 billion, a drop of 31.11 percent, or Sh5.53 billion, year-on-year.

TIn imposing the temporary ban on used clothes, Kebs had applied a standard which prohibits buying second-hand clothes from countries experiencing epidemics to ensure disease-causing microorganisms are not imported into Kenya.

Higher quality and relatively lower prices for mitumba has continued to drive demand for used clothes at expense of locally-made products amid higher margins enjoyed by traders largely operating in informal markets.

The lucrative second-hand clothing market has seen traders from China —a key source market for the merchandise —open shops in Gikomba, Kenya’s largest informal market for mitumba, in recent years to cash in rising demand.

Earnings from exports of articles of apparel and clothing accessories fell 5.32 percent to Sh32.92 billion last year compared with 2019, data indicates.

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Court backs Atwoli union in horticulture membership feud

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Court backs Atwoli union in horticulture membership feud


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Cotu boss Francis Atwoli. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Summary

  • A trade union that is led by the long-serving Central Organisation of Trade Unions (Cotu) boss Francis Atwoli has survived an attempt to stop it from representing over 60,000 workers in the horticulture industry.
  • Newly registered Kenya Export, Floriculture, Horticulture, and Allied Workers Union (Kefhau) had filed as a case in the Employment and Labour seeking to bar the Atwoli-led Kenya Plantation and Agricultural Workers Union (KPAWU) from representing workers in the industry.

A trade union that is led by the long-serving Central Organisation of Trade Unions (Cotu) boss Francis Atwoli has survived an attempt to stop it from representing over 60,000 workers in the horticulture industry.

Newly registered Kenya Export, Floriculture, Horticulture, and Allied Workers Union (Kefhau) had filed as a case in the Employment and Labour seeking to bar the Atwoli-led Kenya Plantation and Agricultural Workers Union (KPAWU) from representing workers in the industry.

Mr Atwoli is the secretary-general of KPAWU. The rival union claimed KPAWU had encroached on its area of workers’ representation.

Justice James Rika, however, dismissed the claim and ruled that the dispute should have been taken through conciliation, and was therefore presented in court prematurely.

He also stated that Kefhau must go beyond its registration and recruit sufficient members from the employers, to be granted recognition and organisational rights.

“Registration on its own, does not afford the claimant (Kefhau) recognition. Until there is proof that Kefhau has satisfied Section 54 of the Labour Relations Act, the status quo must be maintained,” said the judge.

“Kefhau must recruit at least 50 percent plus one, of the unionisable employees in the floriculture and horticulture industry, members of the Agricultural Employers Association to be considered for recognition,” he stated.

He noted that there is a Recognition Agreement and CBA, binding Mr Atwoli’s union and Agricultural Employers Association, affecting 73 Flower Growers Group of employers, and over 60,000 employees.

“It is objectionable for Kefhau to be allowed organisational rights, and the legitimacy to receive trade union dues and agency fees, from over 60,000 employees, just on the strength of registration as a trade union,” said the judge.

Kefhau wanted the court to declare that it is the sole trade union, which is allowed by its constitution to carry out activities in the export floriculture and vegetable industry, and an order restraining Mr Atwoli’s from representing workers in that area.

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