Stories of sleaze and corruption are nothing new in Africa but the case of Kamlesh Pattni, the 31 year old Kenyan Asian, is surely something different. In this issue we report, on page 30, how he finally lost the opulent Regency Hotel in Nairobi. From all accounts, it seems that this magnificent hotel was the apple of his eye, and the apex of his achievements. It was put under the hammer while he was in prison on remand over one of a dozen - at least - charges of theft, embezzlement etc etc. He put up a fierce battle as soon as the jail doors were opened but all to no avail.
Pattni, who is only 31, seems to have caught the popular imagination. Perhaps it is because there is considerable admiration for the sheer bravado with which he pulled off what is allegedly the biggest scam of the century. And one cannot help but be impressed by the scale of his activities. He owned a score of the most profitable companies in Kenya and elsewhere. He set up his own bank and ran it with refreshing flamboyance before the law came down on him and forced him to shut it. The number and quality of his contacts is astounding. His ability to enlist the active support of powerful people and to get them to follow his lead almost blindly is equally astonishing.
Where could he have found the time, the energy and the organisational skills to do as much as did in such a short period of time? Even when the chips were really down, Pattni refused to give in. Kamiti Prison is notorious in Kenya for breaking even the strongest will yet stories are emerging about how he spent his time plotting to regain his fortune.
Those who met him in better days admit that he is a genius of sorts. If only he had chosen not to channel his activities in what appear to be criminal activities! What a leader he could have been. Whether in the course of time he is found guilty of the charges levelled against him or not, there is no doubt that he is an entrepreneur extraordinaire. What a loss to Kenya therefore that such a natural entrepreneurial talent should be so grossly distorted.
There are those who will argue that someone like Pattni had no choice. He was a driven man, like most business tycoons, but the culture of the country in which he lived was so corrupt, the legal avenues so heavily barred, that his energies flowed through what seemed the only channel open.
For Pattni read a hundred different, a thousand different African names young men and women of extraordinary enterprise, energy...