A New Zealander believed by his family to be dead for nearly
30 years has contacted them after being held in custody in
Kenya accused of stealing $630,000 from a mining company.
Francis Edward Strange was detained in February last year
after failing to scrape together the $15,000 required for
When he appealed to a High Court in Kenya against his bail
conditions, the 56-year-old claimed that a convicted murderer
had twice tried to kill him in jail and other inmates saved
his life. "I was lucky," he said.
Five months later, his appeal was successful. His bail bond
was eventually reduced to just $1500, despite authorities'
fears that he was a flight risk. Also, a condition that he
find two civil servants to come up with $15,000 each in
surety money was changed to allow two Kenyan citizens to
stump the cash.
He is now on bail with strict conditions, including
surrendering his passport, and living in the capital,
Strange returns to court today to face allegations he stole
equipment and gold from a mining company in Narok County that
he had travelled from Japan to get involved with. A
magistrate is yet to be assigned to the case. If found
guilty, he faces seven years in jail.
Originally from Paeroa, in Waikato, Strange emigrated from
Ponsonby to Australia in 1981.
The last contact his family had was in 1990, when he was
living in Sydney. He moved to Tokyo in 1992.
"I love my family. But my family is a little conservative. I
wanted to do something where I could make a major
difference," he told the New Zealand Herald from his
Nairobi apartment yesterday.
A fortnight ago, his mother, Liz Simpson, received a call
from him at her Bay of Plenty home. "We'd all assumed he was
dead," she said.
Fearing the contact was part of a fraud, Mrs Simpson asked
her other son, Gerard Strange, a Waihi farmer, to check out
"We hadn't heard from Francis for nearly 30 years," Gerard
Strange said. "To get this out of the blue, we thought it was
"I talked to him and tried to ascertain, through asking some
questions that only he'd know the answers to. I said to him,
'We don't know if this is you or not. It could be any
English-speaking person, really.' "He sounded very calm. It
was almost an everyday talk. I guess the difference was so
many years going past, and me trying to pick was it his
"He said a couple of things that I'd forgotten about, too,
and so I rang my mum back and said I was pretty sure it was
Since then, Francis Strange has emailed his estranged family
lengthy correspondence about his case.
If he wins his court battle, he plans to stay in Kenya and
plough ahead with plans to develop a mine extracting
minerals, including manganese and iron ore.
"We are going to build a mining city," he said.
"Everybody knows that Kenya needs investment. Kenya needs
jobs. There's a lot of people who want to see this happen.
But it really is dog-eat-dog here." His vision is for a
massive mining and industrial city in Taita-Taveta County, in
the southern tip of Kenya.
It could generate between 300,000 and 500,000 jobs during its
construction over the next decade, Strange says.
In January 2014, Strange moved from Japan, where he was a
teacher and union boss at an English language school, for a
promising business venture in Kenya's mining industry.
He has also published a book for English-language students
and conducted research on the international cement industry
and rebuilding Japan's power network.
But the African move turned sour. In April 2014, Strange took
legal action against Mboe Sambu Resources Ltd, seeking a
restraining order on their activities, claiming it was
operating without a licence.
Nine months later, he was arrested alongside Australian
friend and business associate Stephen Samuel Paino and
charged with breaking into the mine and stealing equipment
and gold worth $630,000.
Both vehemently deny the charges. Paino has since returned to
Strange, who is also an Australian citizen and permanent
resident of Japan, claims to have been wrongly accused amidst
"a world of greed and manipulation".
He told the Herald of his horror experiences inside an
overcrowded Kisii GK Prison, where he was one of only two
"When I first went in there [prison], the following day I was
taken to see the prison superintendent. I could see him
rolling his eyes, thinking, 'What has been tossed in to my
lap?' He could see something terrible was going to happen."
The first alleged attack came in the shower area, Strange
"It was a Sunday and there were no wardens about. This guy, a
convicted killer who'd murdered his father by ripping out his
throat, jumped me from behind. He tried to rip my throat
out," he said.
Another attack came on June 19 last year in the TV room,
"I was the only atheist in the prison ... I was standing
there with two Muslims and some Christians when this same guy
ran up and hit me on the head with a food pot.
"Everybody jumped on this guy and started beating him up.
"The shout went up, 'Kill, kill, kill' in Swahili and the
warders ran out to save the guy." In Wellington, a
spokeswoman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade
(Mfat) said it was made aware last year of Strange's arrest
and detention and continues to give him consular assistance.
"Our previous assistance included a visit to detention by our
honorary consul in Kenya to check on Mr Strange's wellbeing
and attending a court hearing in an observer capacity," she
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade says it had no hand
in getting the Kenyan courts to reduce Strange's bail.
"The New Zealand Government does not intervene in the
judicial proceedings of another country, and this includes
not intervening on the setting of bail and court fines."
- NZ Herald