Gold probe cited over murder

Ms Viola Cheptarus, the wife of Mr Joseph Cheptarus (inset), a senior assistant commissioner with the Kenya Revenue Authority who was shot dead at his gate in Soledo Springs estate, Nairobi. She is with her sons Leone Kipyator (left) and Lincy Kipruto. Photo/JENNIFER MUIRURI

A Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) officer who was shot dead at his gate in Nairobi’s South C estate was investigating a gold-smuggling case involving millions of shillings his colleagues said on Sunday.

Colleagues of Senior Assistant Commissioner Joseph Cheptarus who was shot while driving home at around 1.15am on Saturday said he was a key investigator in a case involving alleged smuggling of 2.5 tons of gold with an estimated value of Sh9 billion or US $113 million.

The gold is suspected to have been smuggled into the country from Democratic Republic of Congo. (Read: Kenyan police probe gold syndicate)

Mr Cheptarus was based at the Business Intelligence section at KRA and his main duty was to investigate tax frauds. Colleagues who talked on condition of anonymity asked why the police were quick to conclude that it was normal robbery.

“They came to the scene at 10 am and even the police attached to KRA said it was normal robbery,” said a colleague. Sensitive cases have posed serious challenges and risks to investigators.

In September last year, a KRA official, Mr Tom Ileve, received a decomposing human head. It was in a box which was sent from Nairobi to the officer, and was delivered by G4S. (Read: Kenyan taxman gets human skull warning)

The case involving the smuggling of the gold consignment is being handled by the two governments according to a report by Bloomberg.

Bloomberg has indicated that experts from DRC are in Kenya to investigate the matter according to the Congolese Mines Minister Martin Kabwelulu.

“There are documents saying there was 2.5 tonnes of gold but they were false documents,” he said. At today’s price in London, 2.5 tonnes of gold would be worth about $113 million.

An estimated 80 percent of DRC’s gold exports are smuggled, according to the Ministry of Mines. The Government has been trying to cut links between mineral smuggling and armed groups in the east of the country.

Mr Kabwelulu said the gold shipment that was being investigated was linked to the seizure of a plane carrying more than 400 kilogrammes of gold on February 4 in Goma, North Kivu province.

When the KRA employee was confronted by three armed men, he had just pressed the alarm and was waiting for the gate to be opened.

As soon as the gate was opened, the thugs emerged and shot in the air to scare off his wife. They then shot him several times in the stomach before driving away in his Toyota Allion, KBM 772N.

When his wife finally got out, she found him lying unconscious by the gate with gunshot wounds in the stomach. He was rushed to The Mater Hospital but was died at around 4am.

The vehicle was later found abandoned on Mai Mahiu road next to Moi Educational Centre. The Nairobi Deputy Provincial Police officer, Mr Moses Ombati, said that three spent cartridges had been recovered from the scene.  

The officer in charge of the investigations department at the KRA, Mr Joseph Nduati, declined to comment on the nature of the assignment the murdered officer was handling but his colleagues described it as sensitive.

“We do only tax-related investigations and we are relying on the police to investigate the shooting,” he said.