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Tycoon in Sh7.6bn Kenya Pipeline fuel scam loses UK extradition battle

Yagnesh Devani.
Yagnesh Devani. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Yagnesh Devani, the businessman behind the Sh7.6 billion Triton petroleum scandal, has lost a decade-old court battle in the United Kingdom where he sought to block his extradition to Kenya.

The UK Court of Appeal last week rejected the fugitive businessman’s claims that he would not face a fair trial in Kenya and fears of being locked in filthy prisons.

Mr Devani, who was a director of Triton Petroleum Limited, is accused of engineering the release of the oil company’s stock of fuel from the Kenya Pipeline Company’s (KPC) storage tanks without informing the financiers.

The action, which took place in 2008, left the financiers with a Sh7.6 billion loss, threatened fuel supplies in Kenya and led to high-level sackings.

The ruling by Lord Justice Underhill on May 6 was delivered online due to the Covid-19 restrictions.

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The government has been seeking to bring Mr Devani back to Kenya for years after he fled in the wake of the scandal. He faces 19 fraud charges.

The businessman was arrested in London in 2011 and has been fighting to stop his extradition to Kenya to face charges related to the scam and he also failed to seek asylum. Mr Devani is said to have used his political and business connections to have the 96,000 tonnes of processed petroleum released without authorisation from the financiers of the cargo.

At the peak of his fame as one of Kenya’s most politically connected businessmen, Mr Devani wined and dined with Cabinet ministers, permanent secretaries and heads of State corporations.

Among those who had financed the petroleum consignment and lost money in the fraudulent deal are KCB and PTA banks, Fortis Bank of Netherlands, Glencore Energy UK Limited and Emirates National Oil Corporation (ENOC) of Singapore.

A forensic audit conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) in the aftermath of the scandal said the KPC had irregularly released the fuel in breach of the Collateral Financing Agreement (CFA) that guided such transactions.

The agreement required the KPC to issue acknowledgement letters to financiers confirming possession of stocks it could only release to the marketer upon receipt of authorisation from the financiers.

Senior KPC officials were sacked for the loss and have since been charged with corruption. Multiple suits have also been filed, including one where Glencore is demanding Sh3.6 billion from the KPC for oil lost in the scandal.

But it is the prosecution of Mr Devani that is seen as key to unlocking Kenya’s biggest oil sector scam. Triton was placed under receivership in 2008.

The runaway tycoon had argued Kenya would not be trusted to find a suitable prison for him citing the case of alleged child trafficker pastor Gilbert Deya who was extradited to Kenya in 2017.

Mr Devani also claimed that there were widespread cholera cases in Kenya in 2015 but the appeal court ruled that no such cases had been reported at the Kamiti Maximum Security Prison where Mr Devani would be held once extradited.

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