President Kenyatta’s turnaround regarding betting in Kenya is under scrutiny. It’s been revealed that a close family member has shares in a top sportsbook.

sportpesa kenya meeting
Source: Benjamin Child on Unsplash

Sources have indicated that one of the Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta’s cousins has been quietly accumulating financial shares in the controversial SportPesa gambling empire. The discovery was buried deep in corporate filings in the Isle of Man, Kenya, and the United Kingdom and is of particular interest right now. This is because the President has recently signed into law a Bill that removes a 20% tax on bets made, a tariff that contributed to SportPesa’s shutdown in 2019

A Closer Analysis

The proposal to veto the charge was added as an amendment to the Finance Bill which was passed by the National Assembly at the beginning of July. The only things left to do to legalise it completely was getting the President to sign, which he did on Tuesday evening. 

This interesting timing of this crucial decision is now being scrutinised very closely. This is because Peter Kihanya Muiruri, the President’s second cousin, has spent the last 14 months getting stock in three SportPesa companies. 

After the government introduced the tax on wagers placed by bettors and demanded bookmakers pay the deficit, several leading companies shut their doors in Kenya. The levies were implemented to stem gambling addiction and increase revenue from this very lucrative sector but failed wholeheartedly. Bettors simply started using foreign sportsbooks to stake and Kenya lost the entire income from the levies. 

Now that it’s been axed, we may see SportPesa re-entering the market and reviving the wider gambling industry when it does. And seeing a member of Kenyatta’s own family enjoying considerable rewards as well. 

No Comment.

The President’s spokesperson has not returned calls or responded to messages asking about whether he knew about Miururi’s shareholding before he made the Bill law. The Kenyatta family business is already managed by one of the Head of State’s brothers and has sprawling interests across the country. Individual family members also invest hugely. 

The Discovery

The Daily Nation News and Finance Uncovered worked jointly to access documents filed by SportPesa in the Isle of Man, Kenya, and the United Kingdom. These reveal that Muiruri owns stock in three companies linked to the betting brand. 

He has a 1% stake in Pevans East Africa, the firm that owns SportPesa in Kenya. Muiruri’s name has been on the shareholder register since May last year, just before the clampdown on wagering began. Muiruri is additionally a Pevans Director, with the firm previously revealing that it saw Ksh20 billion in income and earned Ksh9 billion in gross profits in this country in 2018. 

Then there’s the 0.5% second stake in SportPesa Global Holdings Limited UK. This is the organisation which owns the brand’s non-Kenyan wagering companies in Italy, Russia, South Africa, and Tanzania. It also owns the very successful SPS Sportsoft Ltd United Kingdom-based company which provides SportPesa’s sister companies with IT services. Profit here was recorded at almost £12 million for 2018. 

And finally, there is the 3% stake Muiruri owns of SportPesa Holdings Limited in the Isle of Man. This offshore organisation gets all the brand’s income from wagers placed in the United Kingdom. Firms based in this British Crown dependency and tax haven situated in the Irish Sea don’t have to make their accounts public. This means that no financial information is available about them and Muiruri’s stake was acquired in December 2019.  

The total value of Muiruri’s shares in these three companies remains unclear because no real financial information is available. It also still not known how much, if anything, he paid for his shares, but his timing does seem inordinately propitious. 

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