Asenath Wacera Maina, the widow to the Late Hon Dick Wathika, the founder and Chairman of Pevans EA Ltd (bonafide owners of Sportpesa) filed a civil suit at the High Court in Kenya seeking the cancellation of a licence granted to Milestone Games Ltd, which had in a series of fraudulent moves, purported to transfer the Trademarks and assets of Sportpesa to itself from Pevans EA Ltd.
On 13th September 2022, the High Court suspended the operation of BCLB licence No. 0000448 to Milestones Games Ltd.
Milestone Games Ltd continues to operate to date with impunity despite being served with the said orders of the High Court.
Asenath Wacera went back to court on 13th October 2022 and filed contempt of court proceedings against the BCLB and each of the individual Directors of Milestone Games Ltd including Ronald Karauri and Bernard Chauro.
This example is poignant, especially when viewed against the backdrop of the just-ended Kenya Airways Pilots strike which had grounded the “pride of Africa” to a halt despite an order from the Employment and Labor relations court, declaring the strike action illegal.
The Airline pilots are represented by Kenya Airlines Pilots Associations (KALPA) and a former Secretary General of this organization is Ronald Kamwiko Karauri, who holds the dual distinction of being both shareholder/Director/CEO of two betting companies, namely Pevans EA Ltd and Milestones Games Ltd.
Players in the aviation sector aver that Ronald Karauri accumulated proceeds to enable a minority SportPesa stake in PEVANS EA Limited, from exploiting the plight of his aviation union as leverage to extort former Kenya Airways CEO Titus Naikuni whilst suppressing industrial action allowing the political class to plunder the national carrier.
To Karauri, a former Airline pilot himself, and just like his erstwhile colleagues in the Airlines industry, court orders are a massive inconvenience that ought to be abided by by others…children of a lesser god.
But not them.
Kenyan courts continue to pander to the whims of these clowns.
Milestones Games Ltd continues to openly run its business with acres of space purchased on all media platforms and jackpot winners put on display brazenly.
Kenya really is a basket-case country at best.
Elsewhere, the battle rages on between another Pevans EA Ltd (PEAL) shareholder Paul Wanderi Ndung’u on the one hand and Telecommunications behemoth, Safaricom, on the other, over the latter’s decision to allow the fraudulent transfer of PEAL assets to Milestones Games Ltd (MGL).
The illegal transfer was done in collusion with the Registrar of Trademarks, Chairman/CEO of the Betting Control & Licensing Board (BCLB) and senior officers of Safaricom Ltd.
But who is this man who has thrown down the gauntlet against Safaricom and as a matter of principle, told them that he will not play possum and allow them and their facilitators ride roughshod over him.
Paul Wanderi Ndung’u is a self-made Kenyan Billionaire, having started his career as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) before venturing into opportunities in the telecommunications sector via his flagship company – Mobicom.
He is an alumnus of United States International University – Africa.
He was one of the original Safaricom agents when the company hit the ground running in 2000, and just like the pioneers of the dotcom bubble, he made some serious cheddar in the process.
Over the years since then, his investments have grown exponentially as has his influence and placement in Kenya’s corporate scene.
He has been at the helm of seven (7) different companies and is Chairman for Rift Valley Science Ltd., Chairman for Taipan Properties Ltd., Chairman at Mobicom Kenya Ltd., Chairman of Mobicom Investments Ltd., Group Managing Director at Taipan Forex Bureau Ltd., Group Managing Director at The Village Market Forex Bureau Ltd. and Group Managing Director at Glory Forex Bureau Ltd.
He is also on the board of CMC Holdings Ltd., Safari Ting Ting Ltd. and Swift International Ltd.
In 2013, former Nairobi Mayor and one-time Makadara MP Dick Wathika reached out to his pal Ndung’u to interest him in an idea for a sports betting company that he had cobbled together with another partner, the Bulgarian Nikolov Gerrassim.
It took some time and effort, but Wathika eventually convinced Ndung’u that a betting business would have massive off-take in Kenya and that the Bulgarians had sufficient expertise to execute the business.
Ndung’u, therefore put in a sizable amount of cash injection into the nascent business in return for 17% of equity in it, and the option of a board seat.
Over the years, as a shareholder, Ndung’u would be called upon to either inject more cash or plough back profits into the business in lieu of dividends in order to make the assets of PEAL (Trademarks, brand, websites, Paybill numbers & shortcodes) be the pre-eminent betting property in Kenya.
And it worked like a charm…
Within 4 years of operations, the company PEAL through its Sportpesa property was raking in upwards of 150 billion Kenya shillings a year, making it both the 2nd most widely known brand and the 2nd best revenue earner in Kenya, after Safaricom.
For sure, Sportpesa and its owners were very well known to the Safaricom top brass both as their biggest 3rd party earners and partners, but also because the likes of Paul W. Ndung’u had been a mainstay of Safaricom separately for more than 15 years.
Then the Kenyatta family lusted after Sportpesa, much like King David got a hard-on for Bathsheba after watching her bathe at the river.
They then put together the most diabolical hostile takeover of a company ever witnessed in Kenyan corporate history.
When a President of a country desires your business, there is nothing within his powers that he will not do to have his way.
By leveraging the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) to concoct an insane tax bill out of thin air, and then issue out agency notices to all banks and to the telecoms companies that handled Sportpesa (PEAL) money, compelling them to cease operations and freeze those accounts, they effectively grounded the company.
The 2nd part of this tragedy by Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta was to order his CS for Interior & Coordination of Government, the voluble Dr. Fred Matiang’i to withdraw the betting license given to Sportpesa (PEAL) and got its foreign Directors/shareholders/employees deported.
The pretext here was that Sportpesa (and for some reason only Sportpesa and one other big betting company) was ruining the lives of young Kenyans, by making them borrow off mobile lending apps, the biggest one of which is owned by the Kenyatta family by the name FULIZA.
In a grand act of charity, President Uhuru Kenyatta culled the herd of its most productive and competitive companies, in order to pave the way for the sluggards to catch up in the tight business environment.
Uhuru Kenyatta and his family would then team up with several of the minority shareholders in PEAL to disenfranchise the company and its majority shareholders by effecting the transfer of all assets (cash in bank and paybill numbers, trademarks and brand) to his company Milestones Gaming Ltd (MGL) and leaving all the tax and other liabilities in PEAL.
The Paybill numbers and short codes are
- Paybill Nos. 521521, 955100 and 955700
- Short codes: 29050 and 79079
The Kenyatta’s really are pieces of sh*t…
The greatest atrocity against the Kenyan people was that the late Kariuki Chotara missed Jomo Kenyatta’s jugular with a knife, while they were locked up together at Lokitaung.
Had Chotara got him, Kenya would probably be a 1st World Country today.
The worst betrayal though has been from Safaricom who have maintained a studious silence as to how properties that they knew were owned by PEAL were somehow transferred to MGL.
Doesn’t a local blue chip like Safaricom, one that has global ambitions have a due diligence office? What is the role of all those overpaid and underworked legal officers of the company plus outside lawyers when an aberration of this nature takes place?
Shouldn’t Safaricom have been the first to raise a red flag when they realized that there was an apparent change in the ownership of these Sportpesa properties from PEAL to MGL?
Would this atrocity have happened had the late Bob Collymore been at the helm and is the silent assertion that a Kenyan cannot professionally run a blue chip company true? With the demise of Collymore, Peter Ndegwa took over at Safaricon with unnatural colorlessness and likely lack of backbone to political overtures.
He (Ndegwa) then went ahead to bring on board another Kenyan to run the M-PESA division of Safaricom by the name Sitoyo Lopokoyit.
Unfortunately, Lopokoyit just so happens to be married to the sister to Ronald Kamwiko Karauri, and these familial ties appear to have trumped common sense and ethics in arriving at the decision to address the elephant in the room, about what happened to PEAL ownership of its primary assets and how they got transferred to MGL
It now falls upon Paul Wanderi Ndung’u to fight back against the company that he worked with from its infancy and which he helped grow into the behemoth that it has become today, and which seeks to devour him despite his long and chequered history with them.
In his plaint to the Court, Ndung’u is incredulous at the level of unprofessionalism exhibited by Safaricom in the handling of the Sportpesa matter.
For example he wonders aloud why/how Safaricom would consent to a Novation agreement (transfer of trademarks) from Sportpesa to SGHL and which is then licensed to MGL when this selfsame Safaricom was party to civil cases No. 025 of 2020 which pits KRA vs PEAL.
When a matter is actively being handled in court, shouldn’t the logical thing for any impartial 3rd party to hold all matters related to the other two parties in abeyance pending outcome.
Furthermore, how Safaricom could consent to transfer Sportpesa Paybills and Shortcodes which held quite a substantial amount of money when the KRA had issued them agency notices, freezing their monies?
The agency notices had been in place and even been twice extended for 4 months by the High court in Nairobi.
In one of the most bizarre goings-on of this sordid tale, Safaricom took instruction from one Wilson Karunguru, who wrote as a Director of MGL and on MGL letterhead, asking them to transfer two critical Sportpesa Paybill numbers to MGL despite NEVER having been a party to the agreement between Safaricom and PEAL.
They breached key confidentiality and good faith rules in their endeavor to bend over backwards to accommodate MGL.
Still, Safaricom transferred the Paybills and Short codes which still held substantial amounts of money, yet they knew that Ronald Kawmiko Karuri and Francis Kiarie were wanted by the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) for questioning about the criminal nature of the transaction.
Karauri and Kiarie sprinted to the High Court, screaming like a pair of fairies, to get anticipatory bail orders to stop their arrest and prosecution until the civil matters before the courts were heard and determined. The same court that granted his prayers, he now shows the middle finger, when it issues him with an order to stop operations of Sportpesa by MGL.
What needs to have happened for Safaricom to say STOP?!
Does someone need to have lost a life for this company to find sufficient reason to stop a particular course of action?
Was this negligence, incompetence or collusion where Sportpesa properties in the form of Paybill numbers and short codes were transferred to MGL, which had previously applied for their own separate Paybill numbers and/or short codes?
Without Safaricom, the Sportpesa heist would fizzle out like a wet fuse. It is the presence of Safaricom and its open defiance to court orders and glaring irregularities that has emboldened the Directors of MGL to move Sportpesa assets to MGL/
Furthermore, it is said that the deported Directors of PEAL were secretly flown into the country by private charter to meet the Safaricom top brass to discuss the transfer of these assets and cash to MGL.
Would this level of lunacy have taken place had Collymore been at the helm?
Isnt this symptomatic of the deep mess ailing this company, if the top brass can “eat” with such impunity, what won’t the lower cadres of employees do at their levels?
Every single day on social media, you run into someone who is complaining of negligence or criminality at Safaricom.
What will Vodafone, the mother company, say of this criminality? Will they just call it the breakage of a few eggs in order to make a brilliant (profitable) omelette and that everyone should focus on the omelette and ignore the nastiness that brought it about?
Isn’t this a rabidly colonial mentality that has hamstrung us due to the lofty perception of the foreign owners of local blue chip companies?
And the media will never speak up about this lunacy because Safaricom media buying agencies will sideline that media house from ad spend in retaliation.
Kenyan media lost its way ages ago, and that is the reason companies like Safaricom can get away with murder.
More power to you Paul Wanderi Ndung’u.