In 2014, John Kimama lost his national identity card and reported the same at the Buruburu Police Station on February 2 of the same year.
The lost ID would come back to haunt him three years later when his whole world was turned upside down.
It all started on June 16, 2017; Kimama was watching the evening news when NTV aired a story of a man who was on the run for stealing petroleum from Kenya Pipeline Company (KPC).
The suspect had reportedly rented a house a few metres from a KPC underground pipeline in Koru, Kisumu, drilled an underground hole from his house to the pipeline, and started redirecting diesel to an illegal storage tank in his premises.
He also operated a fuel station, where he sold loot.
Kimama says he was fascinated by the story, well until it hit close to home. The businessman was the diesel thief that police were hunting down.
On July 7, 2017, detectives nabbed Kimama at a friend’s office in Nairobi. He had just booked a bus ticket for a business trip to Mombasa but ended up in custody at the Central Police Station in Nairobi.
On the night he was arrested, Kimama told the Nation that he was moved to the Muthangari Police Station. The next day, in the wee hours of the morning, he was relocated to the Ahero Police Station and later to the Kisumu Police Station.
At the latter police post, officers informed Kimama that he was facing charges of operating an illegal petroleum business. He was also shown documents, including a lease agreement that he had no knowledge of, and a Bank cheque that had been recovered at the scene of the crime.
Little did Kimama and the police know that the actual criminal had used his lost ID to enter into a lease agreement for the land where fuel was siphoned. He also used the ID to open an account with Transnational Bank.
The businessman told the Nation that police made him append his signature 30 times on a piece of paper and on the cheque as they sought to nail him down.
Charged In Court
On July 17, 2017, Kimama was arraigned in court on charges of operating a business storing petroleum products without a valid licence from the Energy Regulatory Commission (now the Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority). He denied the charges and was released on a bond of Sh100,000.
On further investigations, however, detectives found out that someone else had used Kimama’s ID to carry out the criminal activities.
Charges against Kimama were subsequently withdrawn and he was discharged on November 15, 2017.
As a result of his confinement, the businessman developed health complications.
Nation reports that he was stressed and traumatised. His travel documents have also been blacklisted, meaning he cannot travel beyond Kenya’s borders.
Kimama’s ID was also used to register Ress Energy Kenya Ltd, the company that was selling illegal petroleum products. As a result, Kimama risks being listed by Credit Reference Bureaus for defaulting on a Sh2.5 million loan that the culprits took from Transnational Bank.
“Furthermore, my wife took off when the criminal case commenced. She told me that she couldn’t continue living with a criminal,” he told the publication.
“I had used more than Sh700,000 in pursuing this case, But, worse, my family disintegrated. When the tempest billowed, I lost the grip of my family,” a teary Kimama added.
Sued the State And Lost
When the criminal charges were dropped, Kimama sued the State for causing him emotional torture, damaging his image, and for accrued general loss.
On June 8 this year, exactly four years after his predicament started, Kimama lost the civil case against the State. The court ruled that he had not presented enough proof.
“In the upshot, the plaintiff has failed to prove his case against the defendants and the suit is dismissed with cost to the defendants,” Principal Magistrate Onzere EM ruled.
Kimama said he intends to appeal the ruling.
“I was innocently accused because my lost ID landed in the wrong hands. I urge everyone not to take the loss of identification documents for granted. Always report and keep copies of the abstract for it can be used to commit crimes.”
Additional Reporting by Nation.africa