seven Kenyans charged for posing as president KENYATTA
A Kenyan court charged seven men for impersonating President Uhuru Kenyatta and swindling a prominent businessman out of 10 million shillings ($100,000) in yet another high-profile corruption case. The suspects called tyre firm Sameer Africa boss Naushad Merali and his finance director Akif Butt pretending to be the president and asking to sell them land, court documents showed. The seven pleaded not guilty at a Nairobi court and were released on bail before their case resumes on March 12.
One of the suspected fraudsters impersonated Kenyatta’s voice, while the others arrived in fancy vehicles and suits to collect the money, police said. “Merali .... gave a go-ahead to the finance director to process payment believing he spoke to the head of state,” the documents read. The Star newspaper said Joseph Waswa, the man accused of imitating Kenyatta, was known to use luxury cars, helicopters and bodyguards. Although the case was entertaining, it also showed how pervasive corruption was in East Africa’s richest economy, lamented prominent anti-graft campaigner John Githongo. “It is so completely normal to be shaken down ... that he didn’t even bother to check up before sending the money,” he told Reuters. “For that to happen, especially right now when we are ostensibly in the middle of an anti-corruption campaign, shows that much of it is window dressing.”
Kenyatta’s Government has come in for repeated criticism over corruption scandals in the health sectors, national youth service and construction contracts. Dozens of senior officials and business people were charged in May with various crimes related to the theft of nearly $100 million from the National Youth Service (NYS), a state agency. The Directorate of Criminal Investigations said it was also probing what it said was fraudulent construction of two dams valued at 63 billion shillings. Some payments were already made out despite the dams not being built, it said. Neither Sameer Africa nor Kenyatta’s State House had any immediate comment on the court case.
Cat that lived six years in Alaska store gets evicted
A cat named Stormy that has spent more than six years as a fixture in a remote Alaska general store is being forced out after officials notified the store owners that the cat’s presence violates food safety standards. The Fritz Creek General Store near the small city of Homer has been home for Stormy since 2012, The Homer News reported. The slightly overweight black cat often lounges on one of the store’s wooden chairs or solicits customers for a scratch on her head. The state Food Safety and Sanitation Program received a complaint about Stormy and an environmental health officer saw the cat in the store, said Jeremy Ayers, section manager for the agency.
State food safety code prohibits pets in facilities that serve food, except for police dogs and service animals. Enforcement of the pet prohibition is not usually high on officials’ priorities list, but the complaint and the officer’s observation meant that action needed to be taken, Ayers said. Stormy is part of the store’s and the rural community’s culture, said Linda Chamberlain, who frequents the general store. Several people visit the shop just to greet the cat, she said. Certain regulations may work in Alaska metropolitan areas like Anchorage, but they do not always account for special circumstances in other places, Chamberlain said.
Stormy might even make the store more hygienic, said Al Breitzman, a Fritz Creek regular, who said the cat helps reduce the rodent population. The general store is owned by Sean Maryott and Diana Carbonell. They didn’t return the newspaper’s call seeking comment. Sean Maryott’s sister, Bridget Maryott, said Stormy will live with her family.
Vietnam expels Kim Jong-Un lookalike named howard X
An Australian comedian who impersonates North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un said authorities were deporting him from Vietnam, some 24 hours before the real Kim was due to arrive for a summit with US President Donald Trump. The Kim lookalike, who goes by the name Howard X, popped up in Vietnam’s capital of Hanoi along with his partner who impersonates Trump, drawing crowds and media. The two real leaders are due to meet in Hanoi on Wednesday and Thursday for their second nuclear summit. “North Koreans have no sense of humor,” the impersonator told reporters before heading to Hanoi’s airport to leave the country. “Satire is a powerful weapon against any dictatorship.”
The impersonator visited Singapore in June, when Trump and Kim held their first summit, and performed satirical stunts. He said he was briefly detained by authorities there. He also showed up at the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, where he danced in front of an appalled North Korean cheer squad before security hauled him away. Vietnamese foreign ministry officials were not immediately available for comment on Monday. Howard X said earlier authorities had questioned him and warned him not to create any disturbance. Vietnam has tightened security around the capital ahead of the summit.