Mumbai: War is a policy practiced by a sovereign state where one tries to outflank the other nation cerebrally, strategically and militarily. War has different faces and semiotics. Brutal gangland wars are part of legend and folklore all over the world. Kenya too has had its fair share, most notably the Akasha Organisation vs the politically protected Ali Badruddin Punjani Crime syndicate.
The two families fought over control of the coastal region to take charge of the drugs underworld. It was a blood feud replaced with internecine shooting wars. Punjani was no stranger to links in the drugs underworld. Networked, deep pocketed in net worth and influential at the Coast, reclusive business tycoon Ali Punjani had enormous heft in the world of narcotics.
In 2009 at a funds drive to help residents of Faza Island in Lamu after a fire engulfed their homes, Punjani made a personal contribution of Ksh.6 million in the presence of former President Mwai Kibaki and then Prime Minister Raila Odinga.
Kenyan media reported that in 2010, the then Internal Security Minister George Saitoti named Punjani among one of the top suspected drug lords in the country. Actress Kim Sharma was once married to Punjani.
In 2017, the rivalry between two alleged biggest drug lord families burst into open on new year’s eve after Punjani and the Akasha brothers were involved in a fight in a Mombasa night club where guns were drawn and shots fired.
The aftermath, was five people were injured with Ali Punjani’s aide seriously injured remaining in a coma for four good days with a serious head injury. Both the Akashas and Punjani were charged with fighting in public and were released on a Ksh.50,000 cash bail. The case is still active.
To amplify the bad blood between the two families, in the trial of the Akasha brothers in the US where they are facing drug trafficking charges, Punjani was named as a fierce rival drug lord of the Akasha Empire.
But to underpin Punjani’s deep connection within government, reportedly before a raid on his residence, a contingent of 19 armed security officers guarding his Nyali home were withdrawn to pave way for the raid.
On the other hand, a document filed by Geoffrey S Berman, the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, pulled down the veil on an ugly drug cartel that also sucked in flamboyant politician Stanley Livondo, businessman Ali Punjani and host of other names.
Another Kenyan media outlet stated – It is a story of a drug empire that expanded and thrived by roping in law enforcement agencies, politicians, judicial officers, prosecutors and influential families. It entailed torture and killing of family members and dabbling with the Al Shabab terror group.
A picture emerges of the Akasha’s big but wicked dreams for their empire: An ambitious plan of using established laboratories in Burundi, Uganda and Tanzania to manufacture ephedrine into methamphetamine.
“In pursuing this plan, Baktash (Akasha) set up a meeting with the Ugandan President’s sister-in-law to discuss methods of illegally importing ephedrine into Uganda.”
One of Akashas’ victims was a close associate of Punjani’s known as Speedy who they kidnapped from a mall and brought to Baktash Akasha’s house where he was beaten to pulp virtually. Tony Sanghani another associate of Punjani who Baktash suspected of fixing a meeting between their partner Vicky Goswami and a Punjani that would force Akashas to exit the drug business. Baktash and his brother Ibrahim thrashed Sanghani and Goswami for their misdemeanour.
Now of course the Akasha brothers have been sentenced to 25 years of jail in the US while Punjani has had a bypass surgery in Mumbai and is recovering from it, he escaped the dragnet in Kenya where he has been declared as a wanted man and it was touch and go.
Before getting admitted to the Mumbai hospital, Punjani underwent treatment at the Mombasa-based Heart and Lung Diagnostic Centre following a heart attack and acute coronary syndrome in late July.