Kenyan authorities have detained an African Union (AU) diplomat for non-settlement of Sh3.6 million incurred during a 2012 conference he organised at Nairobi’s Laico Regency Hotel.
Omar Faruk Osman, a Somali national, was arrested last week at Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport while travelling to Morocco, following complaints by local tours and travel firm Pinnacle – which organised the conference on his behalf.
“Immediately after the conference Mr Osman promised to pay the sums through numerous meetings and emails,” Pinnacle said in its petition, adding that Mr Osman had at one time confirmed that the amount had been sent to their local bank account but nothing had been paid to date.
Justice Charles Kariuki issued a warrant for his arrest after Pinnacle went to court claiming that Mr Osman, who has been on the run since 2012, has occasionally sneaked in and out of Kenya without settling the debt.
Mr Osman, who was arraigned in court yesterday, was released after depositing Sh1.8 million as security and surrendering his three passports, pending the hearing and determination of a case Pinnacle has filed at the Milimani Court.
Aside from his Somali and British passports, Mr Osman also holds an AU diplomatic passport.
Pinnacle claims Mr Osman incurred the debt when he organised a conference at the Laico Regency Hotel as an official of the East Africa Journalists Association (EAJA).
But Mr Osman says in a fresh application that his arrest and confiscation of his travel documents is illegal as he enjoys diplomatic immunity as the chairman of the political affairs committee of economic and social cultural commission of the AU.
Pinnacle has enjoined the EAJA as the second respondent in the suit.
The conference was sponsored by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) with Mr Osman as the organiser.
EAJA claimed in an email to Pinnacle that Mr Osman misappropriated funds intended to settle the debt and promised to organise for a repayment.
Arrested by immigration officers
Mr Osman told the court that he was on an AU trip to Casablanca on Sunday May 1 when he was arrested by immigration officers before he was dragged to court and ordered to deposit half the sum Pinnacle wants to recover from him.
The AU diplomat says walking in the streets of Nairobi without any form of identity ha a turned him into highly suspicious individual and made it impossible to attend to official duties.
Pinnacle claims that Unesco had confirmed releasing all funds for the conference to Mr Osman and his organising committee, but the AU diplomat has not been forthcoming with the payment.
Credit: Business Day