Iran envoy in botched plot to free suspects in Kenya

Iranian Sayed Mansour Mousavi (L) and Ahmad Abolfathi Mohammed.jpg
Iranian Sayed Mansour Mousavi (L) and Ahmad Abolfathi Mohammed after being sentenced to life in prison in Nairobi on terror-related charges, on May 6, 2013

The Iranian ambassador to Kenya is caught up in a criminal investigation over a daring plot to free two terror suspects from police custody, with the potential to trigger a diplomatic row.

On Friday, detectives from the Directorate of Criminal Investigation (DCI) arrested two suspects alleged to have defrauded ambassador Hadi Farajvand of an unknown amount of money after introducing themselves as senior Interior ministry officials who could secure the release of Iranian nationals Ahmad Abolfathi Mohammed and Sayed Mansour Mousavi who are in police custody pending a decision by the Supreme Court on whether to release them or not.

Police are investigating Mr Wesley Kiptanui Kipkemoi and Mr Shemgrant Agyei for their alleged role in the elaborate plan straight out of a spy movie. The two, who are spending the weekend in police custody after being questioned by DCI detectives, are likely to be taken to court Monday.

An elite unit

Police sources allege the ambassador had been looking for high-level contacts in government who could help him to illegally secure the release of Mr Mohammed and Mr Mousavi and smuggle them out of Kenya. Security sources suspect the two Iranian nationals are members of the Quds Force — an elite unit of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard that carries out covert foreign missions, including terror attacks.

In the saga that has been going on since 2012, the two claimed they had come to the country as tourists when they were arrested. They were, however, linked to a lethal explosive identified as RDX and were accused of planning a terror attack. A Nairobi court sentenced them to life imprisonment.

The sentence was later reduced to 15-years in jail, after they appealed at the High Court. When they moved to the Court of Appeal, three judges quashed the sentence and set them free. But the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) moved to the Supreme Court to challenge their release with the judges allowing the police to hold the suspects until a decision is made on their fate.

Intensified efforts

The police believe it is this determination to secure their release that intensified efforts to find other ways to have them freed from custody and flown back to Iran.

The investigators are keen to find out Mr Kipkemoi’s role, with indications being that he had offered to work together with a senior Interior ministry official who would help secure the release.

This man, it is alleged, was Mr Agyei, a Ghanaian national.

It is not clear what plan they purportedly sold to Mr Farajvand or how much he paid them but what is apparent is that the Iranian ambassador was so confident the two terror suspects would somehow be freed from custody that on February 8 he went to an airline office on Riverside Drive, alongside an aide, to book three tickets — his, Mr Mohammed’s and Mr Mousavi’s — to leave Nairobi through the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.

CCTV images obtained by the investigators showed him walking in and out of the booking office. But things fell apart after Mr Farajvand apparently realised there was no such plan and cancelled the tickets.

Detectives say he also contacted government officials to enquire about the two individuals he had been dealing with. That was when DCI was alerted and started the investigation that led to the arrest of Mr Kipkemoi and Mr Agyei.

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