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Celebrated cop stares at life imprisonment for wildlife trafficking

One of the country’s most prolific killer cops is staring at a possibility of spending life in prison after he was convicted for wildlife trafficking offences and abuse of a government firearm.

Corporal Henry Mokua Onsongo popularly known as Masai was celebrated and revered in equal measure for his extrajudicial executions of hardcore criminals and brutality while dealing with budding ones.

But he is now awaiting sentencing for the offences that attract life imprisonment and an alternative fine of up to Sh20 million.

In his days as the lead SPIV officer in crime-prone areas of Nairobi including in all Mukuru slums, Embakasi and Eastlands areas where he served, Masai was celebrated for killing most dangerous criminals he usually traced and fatally shot in “deadly shootouts” and hideouts.

Cornered in South B shopping centre

His troubles, however, started on March 9, 2015, when he was cornered in South B shopping centre by Kenya Wildlife Service officers who had been tracing him with intelligence that he was dealing with wildlife trophies.

He was found with a piece of a Rhino horn weighing 600 grams and valued at Sh1.2 million inside his car after one of the KWS officers posed as a buyer in a well-planned and meticulously executed dragnet.

In circumstances that would lead to his successful prosecution and conviction for the serious offences, Masai pulled out his Ceska Pistol and threatened the KWS officers and a dangerous confrontation ensued until his seniors from Industrial Area police station arrived at the scene and disarmed him.

This confrontation where Masai cocked his gun and threatened to shoot the KWS officers sired a charge of misuse of a government firearm and obstructing officers on their duties both of which he was also convicted.

And chief magistrate Joyce Gandani of Kibera law courts who found him guilty as charged stopped in the middle of delivering her judgment to confirm Masai was not armed.

Masai was facing a total of four charges: possession of wildlife trophy, dealing in wildlife trophy, obstructing persons in execution of their duties, and using a government firearm for an unlawful purpose.

In the counts of possession and dealing with wildlife trophy, Masai was charged alongside businessman Eliud Wanyonyi and Richard Ngeleka Kalatanda and was convicted jointly with Wanyonyi.

Both have been out on bond during the trial but Wanyonyi spent three years in remand before he was bailed out.

During his trial and after conviction, Masai maintained innocence and claimed he was on duty.

But his seniors at the Industrial Area police station where he headed the SPIV team and Kwa Reuben police post under the same station where he was the deputy in charge and the in-charge of armoury confirmed he was off duty at the time he was arrested.

In mitigation, Masai pleaded for leniency as he has a family and four children entirely dependent on him and he has not been under any employment as he has been under interdiction since he was charged.

Gandani will pass her sentence on the two on Monday.