DPP opposes release of drug suspect on US-wanted list

Mansur Mohamed Surur, alias Mansour, (left) at the Milimani Law Courts on September 28, 2020.

Photo credit: Richard Munguti | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Mansur Mohamed Surur alias Mansour is being sought for extradition to answer to five charges related to the offence.
  • Chief Magistrate Martha Mutuku ordered his detention at Capitol Hill Police Station in Nairobi as she analyses several applications by the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) and the defence.
  • DPP Haji said Mr Mansur will answer to charges of conspiracy to commit wildlife trafficking, wildlife trafficking, money laundering and conspiracy to distribute and possess a controlled substance in violation of several US laws.

Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) Noordin Haji has opposed the release on bond of a Kenyan wanted in the United States of America on drug-related charges.

Making the application before a Nairobi court on Monday, the DPP said it is highly likely that Mansur Mohamed Surur alias Mansour will escape if released on bail.

The court heard that the US government issued a warrant for his arrest following his indictment by a New York court for conspiracy to commit wildlife trafficking, money laundering and conspiracy to distribute and possess narcotic drugs.

Mansour was arrested on July 29 at the Moi International Airport, Mombasa, after landing from Yemen on a chartered flight. He allegedly left the country through South Sudan before travelling to Yemen. 

He was arraigned at a JKIA court in July 2019 following a request through the DPP’s office by the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol). He was released on bond as extradition proceedings had not been received.

Senior Assistant DPP Catherine Mwaniki told the court that the police are investigating how Mansour left the country despite Interpol's red notice.

Further, the DPP said he has received an extradition request from the USA and that he is also seeking the arrest and surrender of Mr Badru Abdul Aziz Saleh alias Badro, his co-conspirator.

The court heard that Mr Aziz was arrested in June 2019 but was released on bond only to vanish. Just like his accomplice, the DPP said, Mansour might disappear.

The court was also told that Mansour holds a Yemeni identity card but its authenticity is still under investigation.

The offences

Mansour is wanted by several agencies for his involvement in trafficking of drugs and participating in the illegal trade of rhino horns and elephant ivory valued at more than Sh700,000,000 ($7 million).

Police inspector Alibashir Olow, from the Anti-Narcotics Unit of the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI), said investigations revealed he is wanted in the US in relation to at least five criminal offences related to illegal ivory trade and money laundering.

The warrant was issued on May 7, 2019, following an indictment filed at the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. 

The crimes are said to have involved the illegal poaching of more than 35 rhinos and more than 100 elephants.

Mansour and two others were previously charged with money laundering, as well as participating in a conspiracy to distribute more than 10 kilogrammes of heroin.

Mansour and Mr Aziz allegedly conspired with intent to distribute more than approximately 10 kilogrammes of heroin to a buyer in New York. 

Police arguments

While urging Milimani Chief Magistrate Martha Mutuku not to release Mansour, Mr Olow said Kenya and the USA do not have extradition treaties with countries such as Yemen, Sudan and South Sudan.

In court on Monday, the investigator further said the accused left Kenya through porous border points and went to Yemen through South Sudan and Sudan.  He arrived in South Sudan on July 28, 2019 and went to Sudan two days later.

He finally arrived in Yemen on August 3, 2019, after avoiding countries where the Red Notice would have detected his presence. He also holds a dual citizenship of Kenya and Yemen.

Mr Olow further indicated that Mansour has already been served with the extradition request documents and is aware of the weight of the evidence against him.

Mansour sneaked back into the country on a chartered flight hired to repatriate Kenyans and Yemenis following the Covid-19 outbreak

The police officer said he used the chartered flight offered by Skyward Express Ltd.

On July 24, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs informed the permanent secretary, State Department of Transport, of an aircraft that was to repatriate Yemenis and Kenyans to and from Yemen during the Covid-19 travel restrictions.

Mansour took advantage of the planned flight and paid $600 for the air ticket to travel back to Nairobi from Yemen.

Prosecution's arguments

Ms Mwaniki, teaming up with two others, had urged the magistrate to order Mansour’s detention as evidence sent from the USA, through its foreign mission in Nairobi, is assessed, before a decision is made on whether he should be flown out to face justice.

She said DPP Haji ordered the accused’s arraignment after receiving a draft of the charges he will face at the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. He signed the extradition request under Section 5(1) of Kenya’s Extradition (Contiguous and Foreign Countries), Act, Cap 76.

Ms Mwaniki further informed the magistrate that the office of the DPP had received testimonies regarding the draft offences and must be satisfied that there is cogent evidence to warrant the extradition.

“I urge this court to allow us time to prepare adequately before presenting evidence received so far to verify whether an offence has been disclosed or not,” she said, adding the law allows this before a handover.

The defence team sought time to file an affidavit in response to the evidence US authorities gave the DPP as well as their extradition request. The team also urged the court to release Mansour on bond pending the extradition proceedings.

Ms Mutuku ordered Mansour’s detention at Capitol Hill Police Station in Nairobi as she analyses several applications by the DPP and the defence.

She will rule on the bail application on Wednesday. 

Reports by Sam Kiplagat, Richard Munguti and Joseph Wangui