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Police looking for one of the wealthiest Kenyans you probably didn’t know of

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When police raided Humphrey Kariuki’s multimillion alcohol empire in Thika town last week, the world of Kenya’s most reclusive billionaire was opened for all to see.

Detectives led by Inspector-General of Police Joseph Boinnet and senior Kenya Revenue Authority officials made what they said was a dazzling find: An estimated 21 million counterfeit excise stamps and 312,000 litres of illicit products — all worth billions of shillings in taxes.

Mr Kariuki’s Africa Spirits Limited is now under police watch — and by last evening, detectives were still looking for him.

Humphrey Kariuki, 62, is the founder of Janus Continental Group, a conglomerate that includes The Hub – a premier shopping mall in Nairobi; Africa Spirits, a leading manufacturer of Alcoholic beverages; Dalbit Petroleum, one of the largest oil distributors in East and Southern Africa, and Great Lakes Africa Energy, a U.K-based company that is a developer and operator of power projects in Southern Africa. Ndegwa is also the owner of the 5-star Fairmont Mount Kenya Safari Club, and the neighboring Mount Kenya Wildlife Conservancy and Animal Orphanage. One of Kenya’s most prominent businesspeople, Kariuki is also one of its most controversial. He had been linked in the past to organized crime, but always denied his involvement with businesses in the underworld. Last year he won a libel suit against the popular Standard Newspaper in Kenya on allegations linking him and his businesses to human, narcotics and weapons trafficking.

Humprey Kariuki Ndegwa

Africa Spirits is only a small part of Mr Kariuki’s multibillion empire — all under the name of a holding company, Janus Continental Group and which encompasses all that a billionaire would want: A five-star luxurious Mt Kenya Safari Club originally a retreat to famous Hollywood stars such as William Holden — who founded the club.

Its members once included British wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill and US singer and actor Harry Bing Crosby.

The name Janus is significant in one critical way — and for such an empire.

Janus, which means “the beginning and origin of things”, is an ancient two-faced Roman god who provided protection in the beginnings and endings “at the gates, the doorways, and passages and endings”.

READ ALSO:   Policeman dies at billionaire Kariuki's Thika factory

As a god, Janus had the uncanny ability to see both in front and behind; thanks to his being a two-faced god.

But when detectives raided one of Janus’ establishments in Thika — it seemed that the protection against any nosy raid on Janus properties had vanished; at the tail-end of January (which ironically stands for the month of Janus).

Unlike other billionaires who love publicity, Mr Kariuki is the country’s equivalent of Mr Brad Kelley, the US tycoon known for his love of exotic animals, and who despite his extra-ordinary wealth shies away from publicity.

IMPORTED CARS

Born 61 years ago in Nyeri in a family of 10, Mr Kariuki studied at Nairobi School and Kagumo High School before joining Central Bank of Kenya when he was only 19 as a clerk.

“I was at the bottom of the ladder. I always tell people that in life you need to start from the bottom; the only place where you start at the top is when you’re digging a well. So I started as a clerk, and then went on to work in various other departments in the bank,” he told Forbes magazine in 2017.

Mr Kariuki says he made some “decent income” at Central Bank and that he ventured into the business world by importing cars — starting off with a car owned by his UK-based elder sister which he had shipped to Nairobi.

“I was able to sell (the car) at double the price my sister was asking for. I gave my sister her money and kept the rest for myself. I was amazed, and I wondered: ‘Is this how easy it is to make money?’”

And that is the story that Mr Kariuki tells about his rise into the billionaire ranks.

MEETING PLACE

He would later set up the famous Green Corner Restaurant at Nairobi’s Tumaini House, behind Kencom House, where he struck everyone as a hands-on manager.

Every morning, in the late 80s and early 90s Mr Kariuki — slim and always smartly dressed — would be here walking the tables and freely engaging his customers.

READ ALSO:   Policeman dies at billionaire Kariuki's Thika factory

At best, he was always at hand to deal with customer complaints right away and this made Green Corner the go-to-and-must-be-seen-at place for the hip crowds of Nairobi.

The building, owned by the National Council of Christian Churches (NCCK) — was by then the mini-headquarters of anti-Moi elite squad and housed offices of fierce critics such as Pius Nyamora’s Society Magazine, lawyer Gitobu Imanyara’s Nairobi Law Monthly, and Dr Oki Ooko Ombaka’s Public Law Institute (PLI).

Green Corner, downstairs, was the perfect meeting point of all multiparty crusaders – likes of Raila Odinga, Paul Muite, Gitobu Imanyara and Prof Peter Anyang’ Nyong’o.

Another common face at the restaurant was Party of Independent Candidates of Kenya boss John Harun Mwau — a well-known millionaire.

RESTAURANTS

Whether Mr Kariuki took note of this crowd is not clear — but those who saw him then knew he was always apolitical. “He would say hello and disappear,” a man who knew him in those days tells this writer.

“We made the best hamburgers, steaks, and samosas among other things. For years, Green Corner was the place where professionals who worked in Nairobi converged for their lunch and business meetings,” he said in the Forbes interview.

Humphrey Kariuki presents a donation.

Besides Green Corner, Mr Kariuki also had another restaurant which he named Twigs, which was next door to Green Corner but serving the higher end of clients.

For some strange reason, Green Corner was better known than Twigs Restaurant.

At the indoor parking of Tumaini House, Mr Kariuki’s car business blossomed and here, one could find the latest state-of-the-art European motor vehicle models such as BMWs, VWs, Mercedes and Range Rovers.

ALCOHOL

At any given time, there would be an average of five vehicles with foreign registration number plates.

After a few days, the vehicles would be replaced with another different set — meaning he was in a booming business.

That Mr Kariuki would be able to import such high-end cars at a time when the foreign exchange regime was prohibitive meant a lot on the kind of business strings that he managed to pull or, perhaps, pointed to his acumen as an astute businessman.

READ ALSO:   Policeman dies at billionaire Kariuki's Thika factory

But again, Mr Kariuki had previously worked at the Foreign Exchange Department of CBK which was approving foreign currency for businessmen intending to import goods.

While still in his late 20s, Mr Kariuki ventured into wines and spirits distributorship through Wines of the World Limited as the distributor for Jack Daniels, Bacardi and the Edrington Group, whose premium brands include The Macallan, The Famous Grouse, and Brugal rum.

SOUTH SUDAN DEALS

Later on, he started building his own factory in 2002 with the brand Blue Moon Vodka manufactured by Africa Spirits Limited – the company that was raided by detectives.

“I’m proud to say that Africa Spirits Limited is the most successful indigenous alcoholic beverage company in Kenya today,” he had said two years ago.

But the big break came after he was introduced to South Sudan wheeler-dealers and he managed to strike multimillion-dollar oil and construction deals.

“The margins were astronomical. The volumes weren’t much, but the margins were crazy,” he told Forbes.

It was this period that he built the Hub shopping mall in Karen and also bought Fairmont Mt Kenya Safari Club in Nanyuki.

Besides the current raid on his factory, Mr Kariuki’s efforts to get an exclusive license to import and distribute 214 premium wine and spirit brands including Bacardi-Martini labels has been thwarted by the Competition Authority of Kenya (CAK) this year.

The Wines of the World wanted to enter exclusive distribution agreements with various alcohol manufacturers.

The DCI alleges that Africa Spirits has been smuggling ethanol of questionable quality which has been used to produce some of its popular vodka, gin, and whisky brands which the DCI says is unfit for human consumption. The Kenya Revenue Authority also alleges that the company has failed to remit more than $30 million in taxes. The authorities have since arrested and detained a production manager at the factory to facilitate further investigation.

 

Agencies

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Africa

Lesotho Prime Minister resigns, Kenyan President was the last head of state to see him before he was forced out of office

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The party is over and the curtain has come down for the Prime Minister of Lesotho, Thomas Thabane.

On Thursday, in a televised speech in the capital, Maseru, Mr. Thabane announced his resignation.

“Today I wish to reiterate my announcement to retire from office. I might still have the necessary zeal and fervor to continue serving my people and country, but the truth is that at my age I have lost most of my energy. I’m not as energetic as I use to be a few years ago,” he said

AFP

The 80-year old said the decision has been the hardest he’s made in his career. His resignation follows immense pressure from the ruling party and the opposition to resign after he was linked with the murder of his former and late wife Lilopelo Thabane.

“We… have decided that the PM should leave office by Thursday,” Montoeli Masoetsa, the party spokesman said.

“We cannot afford to have him any longer in office and we think it’s only for the best,” he told AFP.

Lilopelo was shot dead in June 2017 near her home in the capital Maseru two days before he took office.

Lesotho former first lady, the late wife Lilopelo. (Daily mail.)

On Thursday, the deputy police commissioner, Paseka Mokete, said the 80-year old leader will be charged with the murder of his late wife.

READ ALSO:   Policeman dies at billionaire Kariuki's Thika factory

“The prime minister is going to be charged with the murder. The police are preparing directives and he will probably be charged tomorrow,” Deputy Commissioner of Police Paseka Mokete told Reuters by telephone

Lesotho Prime Minister Thomas Thabane with his wife, Maesaiah Thabane, at the funeral of his first wife, Lipolelo Thabane. (timeslive)

Already police are closing in on his current wife, Maesaiah Thabane, who is accused of ordering the hit. She was detained this month and charged with ordering the murder, but is currently out on bail.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta was the last head of state to see him before he was forced out of office.

Last year in the month of December, Mr. Thabane became the first Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Lesotho to undertake a state visit to Kenya after he touched down at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport for a three day state visit.

Lesotho’s Prime Minister Hon. Dr Motsoahae Thomas Thabane and Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta at State House.

He was formally received by his host President Kenyatta at a colourful ceremony that included a guard of honour mounted by a detachment of the Kenya Army and a 19-gun salute.

The elaborate state reception ceremonies were followed by a private meeting between the two leaders before they led their respective delegations in bilateral talks that culminated in the signing of three pacts namely; a Joint Commission for Cooperation (JCC), a Memorandum of Understanding for Bilateral consultations as well as a Memorandum of Understanding in the Field of Sports.

READ ALSO:   Policeman dies at billionaire Kariuki's Thika factory

Mr. Kenyatta was banking on Thabane’s support and through him that of other members of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) in campaigning for Kenya’s candidature for the UNSC non-permanent seat in the election slated for June next year.

Lesotho’s Prime Minister Hon. Dr Motsoahae Thomas Thabane and Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta at State House.

By Pulse Live

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Coronavirus costs minister job in Rwanda

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Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame has hinted at firing more ministers in the coming days, accusing them of lying, carelessness and indiscipline.

At the Leader’s Retreat on Sunday hosted at the Gabiro Military Training Centre, Kagame warned that some officials “could be next”, following the firing of three top officials over the last three weeks, among them Minister of Health Diane Gashumba.

Dr Gashumba, who has served as Minister of Health since 2016, was sacked on Friday evening following “a series of habitual gross errors and repeated leadership failures,” the Prime Minister’s Office announced.

But speaking at the National Leadership Retreat, President Paul Kagame accused Dr Gashumba of lying to him about the availability of kits to test individuals for the deadly Coronavirus, Covid-19.

“One morning, I called one of the leaders and the Prime Minister about the Coronavirus and asked that they examine each one of us ahead of the Leader’s Retreat. I told them to tell the minister of health to ensure this.

“She responded that we have 3,500 kits, and that using 400 of them to test leaders would seriously deplete the number of kits we have. The person I sent told her that the message is an instruction and that if she has objections she should call me.

READ ALSO:   Policeman dies at billionaire Kariuki's Thika factory

Started giving excuses

“Later we discovered that we do not have the kits as she said. We have kits for only 95 people and not 3,500. I asked her about this and she started giving excuses in a long story. You leaders, you cannot even speak the truth; how do you expect to solve problems?” President Kagame said.

He then accused former State Minister for Education, Isaac Munyakazi, of accepting a bribe of Rwf500,000 (about $550) to doctor school rankings.

“Munyakazi met officials of some school that had been ranked last and they asked him to rank it among the top schools. He complied by putting the school among the top schools. He was awarded just Rwf500,000 for it. If I had not fired him, he would be here with us and none of you would come up to ask me why. That is how you have normalised bad behaviour,” President Kagame told the officials.

He said he sacked the Minister for Justice, Evode Uwizeyimana, for displaying “bad manners on several occasions.”

“Evode parked his vehicle in a place that people are not supposed to park and then tried to enter a building without being checked. The security guard followed him and politely told him that he must be checked but he instead beat her and threw her to the ground,” President Kagame said.

READ ALSO:   Policeman dies at billionaire Kariuki's Thika factory

“But it was not the first or second time. This is how he has been conducting himself and some of you knew this and you were quiet about it. You had shown him that he could get away with such behaviour. Which kind of people are you?”

President Kagame has hinted that more officials could be heading out the door.

Among the embattled ministers include Minister of Defence Major Gen Albert Musasira and Minister of Internal Security Gen Patrick Nyanvumba.

The President said the two ministers must explain a case regarding the state of national hospitals and warned that they could also be on their “way out”, without divulging further details.

In December last year, President Kagame fired Ms Seraphine Mukantabana, former chairman of Rwanda Demobilisation and Reintegration Commission, over mismanaging the commission. Mr James Musoni, a long-serving top official, was dismissed as Minister of Infrastructure in March 2018.

Mr Musoni, however, returned to government in October last year when he was appointed ambassador to Zimbabwe. In October 2018, President Paul Kagame sent home four senior officials for “gross misconduct” and also sacked an entire unit at the Ministry of Health for “wasting public resources”.

By NN

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Barclays Bank Kenya is now ABSA Kenya and it has opened its doors to the public

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Following the issuance of the requisite regulatory approvals, Barclays Bank of Kenya re-branded to Absa Bank Kenya on 10 February 2020 and is now open for business.

Absa Bank Kenya Plc  is a subsidiary of South Africa-based Absa Group Limited.[2] It is licensed by the Central Bank of Kenya, the central bank and national banking regulator.

The headquarters and main branch of the bank are located at Barclays Westend Building, off of Waiyaki Way, in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital and largest city.

The bank is a large financial services institution in Kenya, with an asset base in excess of KES:259.718 billion (US$2.597 billion), with shareholders’ equity of KES:42,388 billion (US$423,83 billion). At that time the bank serviced 833 268 customer accounts, in 121 branches, 214 automated teller machines and 2,591 members of staff.

Barclays Africa Group Limited has officially been renamed Absa Group Limited and started trading under its new name and new share code (ABG) on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange today. The name change marks the start of a new era for the group as a standalone African group with a new brand design fit for a forward-looking business in a digital age.

No longer just a South African brand, the new Absa Group has a presence in 12 African countries and plans to open international offices in the UK and the US.

READ ALSO:   Policeman dies at billionaire Kariuki's Thika factory

“Our new name and brand are an expression of our new purpose and strategic direction, which commits us to growing in Africa,” Absa Group Limited Chief Executive Officer, Maria Ramos said. “We are rallying around a shared sense of purpose and identity while celebrating our diversity,” she said.

Absa Group launched a new growth strategy on 1 March 2018 as it separates from Barclays PLC. The strategy prioritises cultural transformation as well as restoring leadership position in the group’s core business areas, and developing pioneering propositions for customers and clients. The new Absa brand design is an expression of the group’s new purpose, which is:  ‘bringing your possibility to life’.

The rollout of the new Absa brand design in South Africa will be completed in 2019. The new Absa brand will also be rolled out to Absa Group’s Barclays banks in Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius, Mozambique, Seychelles, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia by mid-2020, subject to approvals including from regulators in those countries. Product and service functionality will not be affected by the rebranding programme.

In renaming Barclays banks across the continent, the group will be able to build on the pedigree of the Absa brand as a strong and stable bank. The brand has substantial equity – Absa was named the fourth most valuable brand (with an estimated value of R18.9 billion, or about US$1.5 billion) in South Africa by global brand valuation and strategy consultancy Brand Finance this year.

READ ALSO:   Policeman dies at billionaire Kariuki's Thika factory

“We would like to build the brand as a bank that Africa’s people can be proud of, a truly independent African bank with global scalability,” said Ramos. “A single brand will enable us to unite behind a single identity, purpose and strategy; we are excited by the enormous opportunity we have to create a bank that Africa can be proud of.”

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