Airport gun scandal hits Kenyan President

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The Independent Online

Artur Sargasyan and Artur Margaryan - flamboyant, gold-chain-wearing Armenian businessmen known in Kenya as the Artur brothers - allegedly brandished guns at Nairobi's Jomo Kenyatta airport when their guests were asked to open their luggage by customs officials. But instead of being arrested, the pair were quietly deported to Dubai.

A subsequent raid at their Nairobi home reportedly uncovered a cache of weapons, body armour and balaclavas, as well as government-issue number plates, fake passports and access-all-areas passes for all Kenya's airports. Opposition politicians have alleged that the men enjoyed state protection, and there are claims that President Kibaki and his family are linked to the Armenians.

Only the security concerns prevent the affair resembling an over-the-top daytime soap opera. The Armenian "brothers" are not related, and may actually be Russian. One claims to be in love with Winnie Wangui, the daughter of a woman who President Kibaki has repeatedly been forced to deny is his second wife.

The controversial Armenians first came to prominence in Kenya in March after an armed raid on the East African Standard newspaper, which had been critical of the government. The Internal Security Minister, John Michuki, made no attempt to deny the government was behind the attack, saying: "If you rattle a snake, you must be prepared to be bitten by it."

But it later emerged that Kenya's most senior police officer had not been informed about the operation, and the weapons, balaclavas and body armour found at the Artur brothers' Nairobi home are similar to those used in the raid.

President Kibaki, meanwhile, has come under fire for failing to discuss the airport security breach or allegations from opposition politicians that the men had enjoyed state protection.

A commission of inquiry has been set up, and the head of Kenya's CID, along with the airport security chief, has been suspended. But opposition politicians have called for Mr Michuki to be sacked, and parliament has promised to set up its own inquiry.