Police raid tycoon Punjani’s home in drugs crackdown
A team of officers from the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI), anti-narcotics and regular police units yesterday raided Mombasa tycoon Ali Punjani’s house in Nyali Kenol in a renewed crackdown against drugs abuse and trafficking at the Coast.
Detectives gained access into his house shortly after 10am and embarked on a search mission.
The suspected drug baron was, however, not in the house at the time. According to detectives, he is believed to have fled the country almost a week ago and is holed up in India.
Detectives said it is believed the suspect could have been tipped by his network of informers of the impending raid before he left the country.
Workers found at the palatial home were interrogated in relation to daily operations and movements of Punjani. By the time of going to press, sleuths were still camping at the home.
Mombasa county police commander Johnstone Ipara said the house was suspected to be used as a freight point for storage and supply of narcotic drugs within the region.
“We suspect Punjani’s house is being used for storage and supply of drugs and so we raided the house with intention of arresting anyone found in the house. At the moment investigations are ongoing and once we gather ample clues we shall carry out arrests,” Ipara said in a press briefing at the Dog Section Police Unit in Kisauni yesterday.
An officer privy to the investigations who spoke on condition of anonymity said security agents drawn from the anti-narcotics police unit in Nairobi working closely with those from the regular police, had been deployed in the area since Sunday afternoon to keep an eye on the house.
“It seems he was way aware of his arrest because plain clothes officers were deployed since Sunday in his home to enable them move in once he arrived. However, workers at his house informed police that he had left the house five days ago,” said the officer.
In 2010 the then US Ambassador to Kenya Michael Ranneberger named Punjani as one of the most dangerous drug traffickers in the country.
The tycoon was arrested in December 2016 after he was involved in a gun fight with the sons of slain drug baron Ibrahim Akasha at Rahjan Bar and Restaurant in Kisauni.
He was however charged with fighting in a public place, in a move that saw the then Kisauni DCIO Valerian Obore interdicted following claims of failing to prefer relevant charges and disarm Punjani after huge amount of money allegedly exchanged hands.
In the case he has been described by the investigating officer as a rival drug lord in Mombasa.
The tycoon is said to have drawn a gun and fired in the air after a fight ensued between him and the Akasha brothers, after a drug deal had gone sour, he was named as an associate of the Akasha brother in the ongoing case against the Akasha brothers in US Federal Court in Manhattan.
It still remains unclear how police were unable to arrest Punjani despite, incriminating evidence as a major supplier in the coastal towns, his drug dealing supremacy ran for over two decades with police reportedly offering him protection
In December 2010, Punjani was named alongside six MPs in connection with the drugs trade. The then Internal Security minister George Saitoti informed Parliament that the seven names were in a US embassy dossier which former ambassador Ranneberger gave to the anti-graft body.
Early this year, 2019, he went hiding as auctioneers targeted his properties. He is said to be linked to drug cartels with international connections.
He got married to Taurat Zaherali Suwani in 1993 but the wife later accused him of marrying a second wife –Maria Ali alias Kim Sharma, a musician from India -without her consent.
He was then sued by his estranged wife, seeking Sh4.5 million monthly maintenance fees after she accused him of throwing her and their three children out of their matrimonial home.