Framed as a dubious investor, tagged as a terrorist financier and a long journey on the corridors of justice is a shocking tale a Kenyan businessman has viciously fought to clear his name from a plot orchestrated by business rivals-cum-dedicated enemies.
Abdullahi Mohamed Ali recalled how the false’ and hurtful allegations that he fled the country with billions of shillings belonging to investors subsequently delayed his scheduled return from a business trip abroad after he had been blocked from coming back to the country as a result of the allegations.
Kenya’s anti-terrorism police have since of fraud and terrorism financing charges, ending a case that police detective established was filed to settle business rivalry.
Through a ruling by High Court judge Lady Justice Jessie Lesiit delivered on November 10, 2020, Ali was absolved of any wrongdoing and ordered release of his passports and travel documents including lifting any ban on his travel.
No charges related to either terrorism financing or fraud were preferred against him.
“The applicant’s passports and all the travel documents be released to the applicant forthwith. Cash bail be refunded to depositor. File closed.” Justice Lesiit ruled.
Similarly, despite the probe having been launched on June 30, 2020, no investor recorded formal complaint over alleged fraud or money lost with any of the investigative agencies.
Ali, the CEO of Maalin Group of Companies, who left the country early this year recently returned home salvage the company which was collapsing in the face of competition and substantial financial losses they suffered due to the severe impact from the COVID-19 global economic downturn after the High court ordered that he be allowed back into the country.
He has since successfully challenged the charges through his lawyers after one of the investors reported to the police that he had had not only fled the country but was also financing terrorism, a serious charge which prompting his lawyers to go to court.
“The order barring me from coming back to the country was based on false allegations. I insisted on coming back to my country to revive our company and refund the investors,” Ali who immediately reported to the Anti-Terrorism Police Unit (ATPU) for questioning upon his arrival said.
It was the beginning of long process he had to go through to clear himself from the allegations and charges levelled against him.
“On his arrival, while in company of his lawyer, he must present himself to the investigating officer, Inspector Kibet for purposes of any interrogation or investigations,” the Justice Ngenye-Macharia ordered at the time.
Ali also complained about ‘dark clouds’ that hang over him and his business owing to media reports that the high court found had falsely implicated the business and his companies in ‘Ponzi Scheme’ fraud, thus ordering all publishers to retract and remove from any publication from all its online platform or any other platform which published the defamatory content.
The Canada-based Somali news website, Hiiraan Online was the first publication to publish the report which the High Court and police investigators established was published by the site’s owner and editor, Ahmed Haji Elmi Gure, one of Mr. Ali’s long-time business rivals ‘with an of settling a business rivalry’.
Ali, a resident of Wajir and a businessman in Eastleigh and within the CBD near Jamia Mosque, has also denied reports that he fled the country.
He said of his company whose businesses has long operated overseas.
In his statement to the police, Ali explained how the company collapsed after most clients started forming their own companies with some even operating in the same countries they used to operate.
“Almost half of the investors had withdrawn their shares, and that posed a serious competition to our business,” Ali told the police, listing it as one of several business challenges that had brought his company to its knees.
Faced with the prospect of the company’s possible total collapse, Ali, has since decided to take a break during which he would also plan ways to salvage the company, thus making subsequent trips to Seychelles, Mauritius and Ethiopia to meet with business brokers, consultants and investors in a strategy aimed at salvaging the company and resume businesses.
The COVID-19 global travel restrictions and social distancing guidelines also meant for the Nairobi businessman to engage with his company’s old investors rattled by the allegations and conspiracy theories against him and his company through back-to-back virtual meetings, thus reassuring them with hopes that they were turning the company’s fortunes around for the better.
“Their (rivals) plan was to block me from coming back to Kenya so that they could take away my assets and other properties,” he said.
Ali who started as an apprentice at a bureau de change in Eldoret throughout 2002-2005 where he gained his first trade experience had since developed passion for business before he relocated to Eastleigh where he worked as a courier until mid-2008.
Equipped with business experience, he decided to start his own business – but because the money he saved from the years he worked was not enough to raise startup capital, he convinced his old friend join him in investing a foreign exchange trade at Garissa Lodge.
“During this period, we had gained a lot of trust from majority of Somali speaking people within Eastleigh. That is when we decided to start international transactions,” he wrote in his statement to the ATPU.
They would later seek people with expertise in forex brokerage and they hired two experts from neighboring Somalia.
“During this period, we attracted a lot of clients and gained more trust. We decided to open the first business in Mogadishu since most of our trusted clients were from there,” he said.
After six months of operations, they expanded to Dubai and later to Turkey.
In 2012, all the three directors decided that each should open his own company and register it in Kenya.
He then registered Maalin Trading Company while another director also registered his.
At the end of 2012, first group joined to Maalin Group and the following year, another businessman also joined.
Between 2014 and 2015, the company had its second group of investors joining its startup venture. They’d become the directors of the startup company who along with clients would share the monthly profits.
Despite the impact of the global financial crisis that affected its business operations in general, company which had invested most of its liquid assets outside the country started facing challenges in controlling its income, a problem which saw the company experienced significant financial losses that brought it to its knees right from late 2019 to early 2020.
“That followed a systematic international fraud scheme that stole the company’s assets in foreign markets,” he said.
By the end of February 2020, the company had collapsed.
“We are looking for a solution that satisfies our customers, revive and make the company successful,” he said.