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Job illusions that turned out to be an airline fraud

Some of the statements of job seekers whom Baracuda Aviation CEO John Majiwa is accused of conning out of Sh9.7 million reveal a well-laid plot to rip-off unsuspecting Kenyans.

Mr Majiwa has been released on a cash bail as police carry out investigations into his alleged con game.

Mr Majiwa was charged on February 27 alongside three of his employees, namely Elizabeth Wanjiku Kinyanjui, Stella Ivy Amaya and Barbara Modani Alwena, at the Milimani law court on February 27.

The CEO of Baracuda was released on a Sh100,000 cash bail as investigations continue, having been arrested by plain- clothes police at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport on February 23 as he allegedly attempted to flee the country.

According to police statements Nation has been able to obtain, the recruitment and training of the staff by Baracuda started in early December last year.

According to a statement by Gabriel Wekesa (OB number 02/22/2/2017), for instance, Baracuda hired Duma Works which is a recruitment agency to advertise job vacancies. Duma Works has offices in Adams Arcade, Nairobi.

Word had already spread that a senior politician was behind the airline. “A few months before the interview rumour went round that a new airline belonging to … (name withheld) is coming up,” the victim says in the statements.

FREELANCE BASIS

Reportedly, Duma Works advertised for the positions online. “Duma Works advertised First Officer positions in December,” states the victim’s statements.

About three days later, the applicants were invited by Duma Works staff for interviews at its offices. Many of the applicants were former flight crew and some still are though on a freelance basis.

“We got interviewed by John Majiwa, Boddie Kimeria, Barbara Modani and Stella Ivy Amaya among others,” the statement reads.

“After the interviews, we got messages that same evening from Duma Works saying we have passed the interview and we were to go to Weston Hotel the following day (Saturday) for company orientation.”

According to the statement, when the successful applicants arrived at the hotel on Lang’ata Road, they were received by the “management.”

“They congratulated us and told us more about Baracuda. Majiwa introduced himself as the group managing director. He said Baracuda Hotel, Blue Sea Petroleum and Baracuda Airways are under him (and) the CEOs of those companies report to him and they want to build four four star hotels in Kenya. He said Baracuda has shareholders in Spain, Finland and UAE.”

Mr Wekesa states that even though rumours had started flying around that Baracuda was a scam, the fact that it had a licence from KCAA (KCAA/ASL/1668) and had trained the first group of four pilots in South Africa was enough to convince them otherwise. Some of the four who were trained are yet to get jobs and the Nation was informed by airport operators they have been hanging around the airports for freelance jobs.

The statement also claims the board members were well known people. The board chairman was introduced as Charles Kimeria, who was the chairman of 2007 Kibaki Tena resource mobilisation group.

PAY SH1.75 MILLION

Other board members were James Wachira who also sits in the LAPSSET Corridor Programme, Ms Faith King’ori who was previously a senior staff at the Kenya Revenue Authority and a Mr James Lwanya who is a businessman in the construction industry.  

During the orientation, the candidates were told that for their training for Boeing 737, they would pay Sh1.75 million each while Baracuda would also contribute the same amount for First Officer training.

During the orientation, the cabin crew candidates with experience were to pay Sh100,000 while those without cabin crew training had to part with Sh250,000.

It was during the orientation that the candidates were given offer letters. In the offer letters, pilots salary would be Sh450,000 a month, while flight pursers would earn Sh120,000 a month.

In addition, cabin crew were offered Sh90,000 a month while the sales and ticketing staff would be earning Sh60,000 every month.

“He (Mr Majiwa) said the Arab investors had ordered two aircraft from Bombadier Canada the latest model CS300 series. In Africa, only two airlines have ordered those aircraft – Air Tanzania and Rwandair.”

According to the statements, the company was also to buy a (Bombardier) CRJ700, Boeing 737-300 and 737-800. Besides, the candidates were shown the Baracuda prospectus showing company routes as well as employee handbook.

The orientation lasted four days though candidates were not accommodated at the hotel and instead were reporting daily at 9 am.

According to the statements, Baracuda had hired the services of Diamond Media which designed the staff uniform, aircraft livery which is a set of comprehensive insignia comprising colour, graphic and typographical identifiers which operators apply to their aircraft.

EMIRATES FLIGHT TRAINING ACADEMY

After the Christmas break, candidates resumed on January 4 for actual training. A senior foreign captain with several hours of flight time who has flown Ethiopian, Jetlink and Rwandair was brought after the Christmas break and was not amused that Baracuda was doing orientation and training at Weston Hotel and not their premises as is often the norm before going to the simulator.

He was also not amused that candidates were told that they would go to the Emirates Flight Training Academy, Al Maktoum International Dubai for ground school for 30 days and thereafter head to Spain for nine days on the simulator.

“This is not normal because everything is often done at one place, mainly the ground training school and Emirates Flight Training Academy is a world class training facility which offers both ground and the simulator,” the victims state in the statements.

READ: Secretary charged with stealing Sh20m from bank

Information on the Emirates Flight Training Academy website states that it has a capacity of 600 cadet pilots, four state-of-the-art flight simulators and eight training devices, an 1,800 metres length runway with air traffic control (ATC) tower and has had over 300 hours of flying experience.

“Designed to be the most advanced flight training academy in the world, its primary focus will be to attract and train airline cadets from across the globe. By incorporating basic flight training with airline-specific requirements, students at the Emirates Flight Training Academy will have the unique advantage of being introduced to airline operations from the very beginning of the course. Multi-Crew Cooperation, Advanced Jet Orientation and Line Oriented Flight Training all form part of this comprehensive approach to training. Emirates Flight Training Academy will equip cadets with all the required skills and knowledge and prepare them to transition to and serve as First Officers with international airlines,” the facility which also has state-of-the-art accommodation states on its website.  

Meanwhile, the cabin crew were to be trained at East African School of Aviation in Embakasi. The cadet pilots and first officers refused to go to East African School of Aviation “to be taught how to dress and serve passengers.”

This second batch did not go to the ground school neither were they introduced to a simulator as promised. By then many of them had paid up to Sh1.75 million to a Standard Chartered Bank account which the court has now frozen and then Mr Majiwa reportedly went underground.

The case will be mentioned on March 16.

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