Fake doctor held in Sh200m PPE fraud deals probe

Friday, November 20th, 2020 00:00 | By
Benson Mugendi Mbaka, a director of Lifeline Group of Hospitals, formerly Kahawa Wendani Hospital. Photo/Courtesy

A primary school dropout could be the latest Covid-19 millionaire, after allegedly swindling unsuspecting business people of more than Sh200 million in fake tenders for the supply of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs).

The director of Lifeline Group of Hospitals, formerly Kahawa Wendani Hospital in Nairobi, Benson Mugendi Mbaka, was arrested yesterday, after an investigation linked him to several incidents of fraud involving medical tenders worth over Sh200 million.

Detectives from the Economic and Commercial Crimes Unit of the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI), however, said the true extent of the fraud could not be immediately established,  as several people said to have lost money are yet to record statements. Police also said they were investigating a foreign bank suspected to be linked to the alleged fraud.

DCI detectives yesterday said investigations had identified Mbaka, a primary school dropout masquerading as a trained medical doctor, as the main suspect, who purports to award tenders for the supply of PPEs to unsuspecting traders.

In most cases, the suspect allegedly obtained money from the victims before they were awarded non-existent tenders and issued with fake Local Purchase Orders (LPOs).

“Dr” Mbaka would allegedly direct the unsuspecting businessmen to supply samples of their goods before the tender is finally awarded.

“In most cases, they would say the samples do not meet their specifications and direct victims to specific companies and godowns within Industrial Area in Nairobi,” a senior detective told the People Daily.

The victims would then be advised to pay and leave the goods to be collected by the alleged recipient institutions.

Detectives said the victims would later be advised to open an account with an international bank and deposit at least Sh500,000 for them to receive payments.

In some of the cases, unknown persons claiming to be members of the dreaded Mungiki sect were used to threaten the victims, prompting the Director of Criminal Investigations George Kinoti to issue a warning.

The fake doctor was yesterday detained at Muthaiga Police Station as officers widened their net for more suspects.

Reports indicate he was later taken to his hospital, where detectives collected some documents relating to the  said fraud.

Sleuths said Mbaka would be arraigned in court today, with the prosecution seeking more time to detain him as they complete investigations.

When the People Daily visited the hospital yesterday, operations were going on normally.

However, none of the staff members seemed to know the whereabouts of Mbaka and other directors.

“None of the directors is around and it is unusual since they usually report to work daily. We, however, do not have their contacts,” one of the employees said.

Detectives said the amount involved in the alleged fraud could be higher than Sh200 million. 

“Several fraudsters are believed to be involved in the scheme, according to our investigations.

We have made considerable progress and expect to arrest more suspects soon,” said a senior detective.

The Lifeline Group of Hospitals, located off Thika super highway, was incorporated in 2005. The hospital’s name has since been changed four times.

It began as East Medical Clinic Limited and in 2006 changed its name to Health Care Nursing Home Limited and later in 2009 it changed to Kahawa Wendani Hospital.

Mbaka becomes the latest suspected tender fraudster to be arrested in the city in recent months.

According to the DCI, fraudsters had changed tack and are duping unsuspecting business people with non-existent tenders, where some of the victims are directed to specific companies to purchase tendered goods.

In one of the recent cases, two suspects posing as United Nations (UN) staff, are being sought in connection with fraud amounting to hundreds of millions of shillings.

The victims are issued with LPO after parting with some money. They are then directed to specific companies to purchase the tendered goods, especially drugs and rice. Once there they are told to pay and wait for the items to be delivered by alleged UN staff.

Some of the victims told detectives that since access to the UN compound was restricted, they were convinced to surrender the goods to a team of “UN staff” to deliver.

The DCI has warned that fraudsters are taking advantage of Covid-19 to trick business people and steal their money or information.

Kinoti said the country currently faces unprecedented challenges with the coronavirus crisis, which has led to a surge in fraudulent schemes.

Other fraudsters, seeking to profit from the fear and uncertainty caused by the virus, are selling fake medicines and equipment and even spreading misinformation to create fear and confusion.

The International Police (Interpol) has warned that fake shops, websites, social media accounts and e-mail addresses selling surgical masks and other medical supplies have sprung up online.

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