Kurt Bayer is a Herald reporter based in Christchurch

Man charged with 'dead' Kiwi claims he has been framed for gold mine heist

Francis Strange says he was injured when a convicted murderer hit him over the head in the jail's TV room with a food pot. The same man had earlier tried to rip his throat out in the shower area. Photo / Supplied
Francis Strange says he was injured when a convicted murderer hit him over the head in the jail's TV room with a food pot. The same man had earlier tried to rip his throat out in the shower area. Photo / Supplied

The man charged alongside a Kiwi over an alleged Kenyan gold mine heist claims they've both been set up and has grave fears for their lives.

New Zealand-born Francis Edward Strange, 56, was arrested and thrown in an African jail after being accused of stealing $630,000 worth of equipment and gold from a mining company.

Read More:
'Dead' Kiwi phones mum after 30 years to tell her he's in Kenya and accused of stealing $630,000

He spent six months in a notoriously over-crowded jail. Strange twice survived attacks on his life before he managed to successfully meet his bail requirements after a legal appeal.

For the first time in nearly 30 years, Strange last month phoned his mother who told the Herald: "We'd all assumed he was dead."

Now, Strange is on bail in Kenya's capital city of Nairobi and preparing to defend the charges that carry a maximum sentence of seven years in jail.

Australian friend and business associate Stephen Samuel Paino has also been charged.

When contacted by the Herald in Sydney this week, Paino said he wasn't even in the country at the time of the alleged 2014 theft.

"I haven't been in Kenya since May 2011. But I have been charged for, a minimum of what I know, could be more, two crimes," Paino said.

He claims that both he and Strange, who he first met in 1990, have been set up.

And although Strange is now on bail, Paino still has concerns over his friend's safety.

"I fear for his life," Paino said.

He refused to comment further about the case.

Strange moved to Kenya from Japan, where he was an English language teacher, in January 2014 for a business venture in Kenya's mining industry.

But a few months later he took legal action against Mboe Sambu Resources Ltd, seeking a restraining order on their activities, claiming it was operating without a licence.

In January last year, he was arrested and jailed at Kisii GK Prison, where he was one of only two white prisoners.

He says he was twice attacked in what he called murder attempts.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade says it was made aware last year of Strange's arrest and detention and continues to give him consular assistance.

- NZ Herald

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