Yaya Centre Nairobi (Photo: Courtesy)
Former Cabinet minister Nicholas Biwott’s multi-billion investment, Yaya Centre, located in Hurlingham, Nairobi, featured prominently in the infamous Goldenberg scandal.
It was also alleged that his HZ Group of companies was part of the web of Goldenberg companies that received large amounts of money for fictitious export compensation claims.
Goldenberg International Ltd, which was registered by Kamlesh Pattni in 1989 as a gold and diamonds exporting firm, was accused of receiving about Sh20 billion in payments for fictitious exports.
Prof Terrence Ryan, an adviser on policy and economic planner who worked for the government, told the Goldenberg Commission of Inquiry that the scandal almost led to the collapse of the Kenyan economy. He also blamed it for the recession that hit the country in the early 1990s.
Although evidence was adduced linking Biwott to the scandal, the commission did not find him guilty of illegally profiteering from the looting of public coffers.
His lawyer, Saadia Effendy, poked holes in the evidence produced by witnesses from both Trade Bank Ltd and Central Bank of Kenya and defended Biwott from any wrongdoing.
The commission chaired by Justice Samuel Bosire recommended that 14 people, in one way or the other, were responsible for the scandal and should be prosecuted. Biwott was not among them.
Witnesses told the commission that Biwott’s HZ company was among the companies that received billions of shillings from the sale of foreign exchange bearer certificates redeemed by businessman Kamlesh Pattni’s now defunct Exchange Bank Ltd.