Fraudsters posing as U.N agents charged in court

by Lawyer Wanz
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A Nairobi based businessman lost Sh 11 million to fraudsters posing as agents of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, (UNHCR) in yet another serious case of high-level fraud being investigated by our detectives based at the Economic Crimes branch .

The businessman had been awarded a fake tender to supply 1,680 bags of rice to the U.N agency, only to realise after one month that he had been defrauded by one of Nairobi’s ruthless racketeers, non-other than 34-year-old Martin Shiamia Matchel.

For those who do not know Matchel, he is a smooth operator with a knack for sweeping people’s accounts dry in fraudulent deals involving millions of shillings.

Matchel who is not new to the controversy has had previous run-ins with the law and is a frequent visitor to our courts. He has several pending fraud cases scattered across various courts across the country.

In December last year, the fraudsters approached a businessman known as Mohammed and offered to introduce him to the U.N supplies system, whereupon successful assimilation he would be paid top dollar for the supply of high-grade goods and services.

He posed as an agent of top decision-makers in the U.N system and boasted of knowing his way around the corridors of U.N Nairobi offices, in Gigiri.

To demonstrate his proficiency, he intimated to Mohamed that he was aware of a lucrative tender that was to be issued by the UNHCR to supply first grade Rice and he, therefore, asked him to submit his business profile to an email address purportedly belonging to the UNHCR and wait for the agency’s response.

A week later on December 13, Mohamed received feedback and was invited to supply 1,680 bags of grade one rice.

The fraudsters told him to ensure that he supplied the rice within the shortest time possible before another firm was awarded the tender since the rice was required for relief distribution to hunger-stricken refugees at a camp in South Sudan, known as the Nile camp.

He was further informed that the situation was getting exacerbated by the ongoing ‘conflict’ in Ethiopia. Since the whole consignment could not be secured in the country expeditiously, the fraudster proposed to Mohamed that they import the product at a cheaper price from Tanzania.

The trader dispatched his son to accompany fraudsters to Arusha on December 18, and the following day, the two returned to Nairobi with samples of the rice which would be presented to purported quality assurance officers at the UNHCR for inspection.

Later, he was informed that the samples had been accepted and he now had the green light to supply the product. Between December 23 and 27, Mohamed transferred a total of Sh11 million from his Equity bank account to an account belonging to Yazeed Rice Company, in Tanzania.

In order to convince Mohamed that all was going well, a lady identified as Peris Nyawira, purportedly an Inspection Officer from the UNCHR touched down in Arusha on December 22, to ensure that all was going well and that the rice was being packaged in the required manner.

The consignment was packed in three trailers from the company’s godown in Kahama, 7 hours drive from Arusha town. Each lorry carried 560 bags of rice.

Nyawira then requested for delivery and invoices from Mohammed via email, received the goods formally by stamping on the documents with fake UNHCR stamps and declared the goods to be safely in the hands of a UNHCR logistics officer, who would ensure the consignment reaches South Sudan.

Meanwhile, Mohammed was asked to wait for his payment for about a month as it was being processed.

But in a call that would later shock him, he learnt on February 6, 2022, that the whole deal was a conspiracy of lies and that the rice went nowhere past Nairobi! Instead, City traders were scrambling for the cheapest rice in town, going for prices that hadn’t been heard in the local market in recent times.

Matchel and his cabal of crooks had diverted the whole consignment to a hired godown in Kasarani, and they were selling it at Sh75 per kilogram, a far cry from the Sh105 Mohamed had bought it in Arusha.

Traders including those dealing in ‘Mare Mare’ temporarily stopped trading in their usual merchandise, to first venture in the most profitable product that had brought a financial windfall in town! So much was the demand for the cheap top grade rice, that some traders in the city saw a serious business opportunity and telephoned Yazeed Rice Company in Tanzania, asking whether ‘kuna ingine.’

Yazeed who didn’t know what had transpired immediately called Mohamed and asked him why he had decided to sell the rice that he bought from him at a throwaway price.

That is when it dawned on Mohammed that he had been swindled after calls to Matchel’s phone went unanswered, followed by being blacklisted.

On February 7, he walked to the U.N offices in Gigiri, where he was informed that the documents in his possession were all fake and no such tender had been issued by the world body.

A crestfallen Mohammed walked to our offices on February 8, for assistance. Immediately, a manhunt for Matchel was launched, leading to his arrest on Sunday at the Namanga border point, as he was attempting to cross over to Tanzania to defraud yet another businessman.

Matchel was arraigned at the Kiambu law courts yesterday and he pleaded not guilty to four charges of conspiracy to defraud, stealing by agent, obtaining good by false pretenses and forgery of UNHCR documents.

Members of the public are cautioned to be wary of such fraudsters who have made away with millions of shillings from unsuspecting victims, while posing as U.N agents.

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