Two Kenyans wanted in connection with exporting 511 pieces of ivory seized in Thailand last year could be in South Sudan, security agents say.
Mr Nicholas Mweri Jefwa, 40, and his brother Samuel Bakari Jefwa, 27, have been on the run since April 2015 when Thai port officials seized 3,127 kilogrammes of ivory stashed in a container marked “tea leaves”. The ivory was valued at Sh576 million.
The two, described by police as part of a cartel involved in ivory trade in East Africa and the Great Lakes region, left their rental house in Nyali Estate, Mombasa, and crossed into Tanzania.
They are wanted for clearing the ivory container.
Thai authorities also impounded another consignment of ivory weighing four tonnes, believed to have originated from Mombasa.
Police sources privy to investigations said an operation in Tanzania failed to net the pair.
“It is difficult to find them because of the war in South Sudan. They may also find refuge in the Central African Republic and DR Congo,” said a senior police officer.
He said it was on the backdrop of months of a failed manhunt in Tanzania and Kenya that the international police organisation — Interpol — issued an arrest warrant for the siblings on Friday.
Directorate of Criminal Investigations boss Ndegwa Muhoro on Saturday confirmed the ongoing regional operation to track down the Jefwa brothers.
Mr Muhoro said they were last spotted in Busia town before sneaking into Tanzania through Isebania border, when they were believed to have crossed into Uganda.
“They escaped from Tanzania and we believe they are in South Sudan, the DR Congo or Central African Republic,” Mr Muhoro said on the phone.
The DCI chief said security agents suspected the brothers were being protected by wealthy individuals behind the killing of elephants and rhinos in many parts of Kenya.
“We expect police in the countries where the two could be hiding to arrest them,” said Mr Muhuro.
In a newspaper advert, Interpol and National Police Service released photos of the brothers and sent a global appeal for information that would lead to their arrest.
“An international arrest warrant has been issued for Nicholas Mweri Jefwa and Samuel Bakari Jefwa, wanted by Interpol and Kenya police for dealing in ivory,” part of the statement said.
The operation is undertaken by Environmental Security Unit of the Interpol formed two years ago.
The unit based at the Interpol Regional Bureau for East Africa, Nairobi, works with national law enforcement agencies to increase information exchange, support intelligence analysis and assist national and regional investigations, with a focus on wildlife crime.
The unit was credited with the arrest of Mombasa tycoon Feisal Mohamed Ali in Dar es Salaam last year. He had been on the run for months.
Feisal was sentenced to 20 years in prison in July and fined Sh20 million when he was found guilty of being in possession of 2,152 kilogrammes of ivory valued at Sh44 million.
The High Court froze the assets of the Jefwa brothers and five other people who have been charged with illegally dealing in ivory.
The other suspects in the case are Mr Abdulrahman Sheikh, Mr Sheikh Abdulrahman, Mr Sheikh Mahmoud Abdulrahman, Mr Musa Jacob Lithare and Mr Samuel Mundia.