Goldenberg ‘fall guy’ who loved books, music and money dies
Posted Monday, August 27 2012 at 19:54
Sometime in January 2009, Goldenberg suspect Wilfred Karuga Koinange — who died on Monday — walked us past his empty car yard in Kiambaa where two rotting tractors, a broken down lorry, and other vehicle shells lay.
Apart from a water bottling plant – he bottled the Broomhill Springs water brand – there was little other economic activity in the expansive farm.
Down the undulating hill lay a spring, which Dr Koinange protected as his last source of income. “It is the only naturally carbonated spring in Kenya,” he said.
Ever since he was accused of stealing Sh5.8 billion via the Goldenberg scheme – a fictitious mineral compensation that was hatched by Kamlesh Pattni – the former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance had retreated into the farm with well-trimmed cypress hedges.
“I usually come to this house for solace,” he said.
The house, a colonial bungalow with aging terracotta tiles and polished wooden floor, has a backyard with a round hut. “I can spend my day there reading books and listening to music.”
Dr Koinange cut the image of a lonely man and this was no longer his family home. His well stocked library had many interesting biographies – including retired president Daniel arap Moi’s The Making of an African Statesman by Andrew Morton.
“Do I look like a person who swindled the country billions of shillings?” he asked.
Unknown to many, Koinange was a history buff. He had one of the best collections of history books and rare colonial documents.
He was also a great collector of African music and plants that dot his farm. Each flower type, he told us, had a history, and each tree told a different story.
Koinange loved to sing too – and would mellow when asked something historical: But not on the Goldenberg scandal and the tribulations he was going through.
“This case has exhausted me,” he told us long before he pleaded to the courts to give him a defence lawyer.
Dr Koinange was angry that after all those years in government service, he was left fighting to clear his name over the theft of billions of shillings via a signature he had appended. In his court papers, he told the Commission of Inquiry investigating the matter that he was commanded by the then President Moi to do so.
He told the Bosire commission: “I telephoned the president and told him I have been informed by Prof Phillip Mbithi that I should pay out all the amount outstanding to Goldenberg International and the President said yes, I have spoken to Prof Mbithi.”
Koinange signed the three letters on April 19, June 28 and July 8, all in 1993.