Inside Russian brothers’ war with Matiang’i and immigration

Fred Matiang'i

Interior CS Fred Matiang'i.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

For nearly a quarter of a century, Kenya has hosted Artur Mildov, a Russian national whose relationship with local laws has been complicated for most of that time.

Despite being flagged in narcotics trafficking and money laundering, Artur and his brother Vadim, had managed to live comfortably but reclusive lives in Nairobi.

Some of their investments, like the collapsed Pavement Club and Café that once helped define Nairobi’s unique nightlife, were more famous than the millionaire siblings.

Homes that the Mildov brothers are known to have occupied in the affluent Muthaiga and Muthangari suburbs, however, indicate that they have a taste for the finer things in life.

The brothers flew out of Kenya for a business trip in March, 2019 only to end up persona non-grata a few months later.

Artur and Vadim landed at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in August, 2019 looking forward for a return to business as usual, when Immigration officials informed them that they were on a watch-list hence would not be allowed into the country.

On January 7, 2020, Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i declared the Russian siblings a danger to Kenya’s interests, and ordered that they be deported immediately.

“Artur Mildov who is not a citizen of Kenya and whose presence in the country is contrary to national interests, be removed from Kenya to his country of origin Russia, and further direct that the said Vadim Mildov remain in police or prison custody while arrangements for removal are being undertaken. This order is sufficient warrant to keep Vadim in custody,” a deportation order from Dr Matiang’i stated.

Vadim received a similar letter. While the reasons for their expulsion was not stated, the brothers have been in the past linked to drug trafficking and money laundering.

Two years after their deportation, they have challenged the order in court. They have sued Dr Matiang’i, Immigration boss Alexander Muteshi, Inspector-General of Police Hillary Mutyambai and Attorney-General Kihara Kariuki as they look to reverse their expulsion. They insist they are innocent investors who have been contributing to the economy.

“Following the events that happened in 2019 where we were denied entry into the Republic of Kenya yet no reason was advanced to us nor explanation for the denial of entry, and for Dr Matiang’i to issue us with the deportation order on January 7, 2020 was not only ultra vires but unconstitutional by the respondents,” the brothers argue.

When the case came up for mention on March 1, there was no lawyer to represent the Interior ministry and the Immigration Department.

Justice James Makau requested a lawyer from the Attorney-General’s office to take notes and report to her boss for action, so as to avoid the risk of having an undefended case. Justice Makau made the decision after noting that there was no representation for the government on the several occasions that the case came up.

A lawyer from the AG’s office asked for 21 days to ensure the case is defended. The judge ordered that all the parties be served with court papers afresh following confusion over which office the Mildovs’ lawyers visited initially.

“Due to a conflict in the affidavit of service… on whether the AG was served or not, I direct that the petition be served on all parties afresh. The AG is given 21 days to file a replying affidavit. If no reply is filed, the petition will be deemed to be uncontested,” Justice Makau held.

Mildovs’ lives in Kenya stretch back nearly 23 years. On July 21, 1999, police officers were trying to trace Victor Gontcharenko’s whereabouts, and one of the starting points was the missing Russian national’s business associate and countryman, Artur Mildov.

Artur told detectives that his associate had travelled to Tanzania but a couple of weeks later, Victor’s body was found in a Nairobi dam. Investigations were intensified, partly because the murder of a foreigner is a sensitive matter that could spark diplomatic tensions.

The murder investigation meant digging into private affairs of everyone Victor was closely connected to. And just like that, detectives bumped into a narcotics trafficking ring.

Investigations revealed that Artur came to Kenya in the mid-1990s alongside other Russians – Andrei Kourtasov, Andrea Petrov, Chapovolo Valeri and Andrea Kountr. They were selling ‘designer drugs’, mostly to foreigners with deep pockets and who were looking to have a good time.

When they landed in Kenya, the Russians incorporated Vim Invest Ltd, Laken Ltd, Femga and Valand Training Ltd, which police believed were fronts to hide their true business – narcotics. They resided in Muthaiga while also operating an exclusive striptease club in the same area.

After police completed their investigations, they successfully pushed for the deportation of Artur, Petrov and Kountr in 1999. Kourtasov and Valeri were charged with Victor’s murder, but were acquitted after the High Court found that there was no evidence.

Kourtasov walked free until 2013 when Immigration officials deported him. He was found to have been dealing in drugs. Petrov was arrested upon his arrival in Russia, while Artur travelled to Germany.

Somehow, Artur managed to return to Kenya. The Nation could not establish exactly when he landed, but by 2004 he was in Nairobi. This time, he tagged his younger brother Vadim along, and the two were based in a house along James Gichuru Road.

The brothers largely operated in the shadows, and the earliest record of their presence since returning to Kenya was in 2008. On December 1, 2008, Artur and Vadim bought a stake in the popular Pavement Club and Café, replacing Jaimini Rajanikant Patel and Seema Rajanikant Patel.

The brothers invested in the nightclub through DFT Entertainment Ltd and De Lart Investments. Curiously, no record of DFT Entertainment or De Lart Investments exists in the companies’ registry online portal.

Kenyan law requires foreign companies to have either a local office or a local representative who can be held responsible for any legal issues that may stalk the investors. Whichever option the foreign company opts for must be applied for at the companies’ registry.

Investigations by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) has, however, traced De Lart Investments to another company – De Lart Holding – which is registered in Cyprus and the British Virgin Islands.

Both De Lart Investments and DFT Entertainment became directors of Pavement Club in December 2008. The brothers became alternate directors, which meant they were the face of the two companies.

Shailesh Patel, who co-founded Pavement, remained a shareholder and director. The Russians invested in Pavement at a time the nightclub had tricked a contractor into doing renovations valued at Sh16.5 million.

When Terazzo Enterprises tried to claim payment, Pavement admitted owing the debt, but did not remit any funds. Terazzo Enterprises sued Pavement, Shailesh Patel and Blue Elephant Limited.

Blue Elephant had been receiving and making payments on behalf of Pavement. But in court, Shailesh revealed that Blue Elephant had been wound up on August 23, 1999. Shailesh added that there was no company called Pavement Club and Café.

In a 2016 ruling, Justice Farah Amin said that Terazzo only got the name of the company wrong, as there was a Pavement Ltd, which owned the nightclub. The Nation conducted a search on the companies’ registry online portal but did not find any firm registered as Pavement Ltd.

The nightclub closed down permanently in 2017, an indication that Pavement Ltd may have been deregistered. On March 28, 2017, the Russian brothers were issued with work permits as directors of another company, Midlands Logistics Ltd.

In their petition, the Mildov brothers say they were first issued with work permits in 2017, an indication that their involvement with Pavement Club and Café was in violation of immigration laws.

“I and the co-petitioner (Artur) have been working in Kenya since 2017. During our stay, we were issued with the Kenya alien identity cards by the Immigration Department. I and my co-petitioner started a company known as Midlands Logistics Ltd, dealing with transportation services, where we were directors and shareholders,” Vadim states in court papers.

Midlands Logistics is registered in Cyprus and the British Virgin Islands. It has no local subsidiary or Kenyan representative as required by law.

Proceedings in the Mildov brothers’ court petition do not indicate how the Russians were issued with work permits in relation to a foreign company with no local presence, representative or known legal operations.

The brothers, however, insist that they were illegally kicked out of Kenya because they have never been given reasons for their deportation or blacklisting by Immigration officials.