Drama is not a word too often associated with business but at sports betting firm, SportPesa, scenes during a board meeting proved otherwise.
The betting firm had its operating license revoked in July 2019 but made an unexpected return two weeks ago.
Initially under Pevans East Africa Ltd, SportPesa re-emerged under Milestone Games Limited with Ronald Karauri at the wheel.
On October 30, Karauri announced the comeback saying, “We are pleased to once again offer gaming services to our customers. Over the coming months, we are excited to explore a wide range of new partnerships in the country.”
A day later, however, gamblers could not withdraw or deposit money via the SportPesa Paybill numbers after the Betting Control and Licensing Board (BCLB) prohibited Milestone Games Limited from using the trade-name SportPesa.
“We apologise to our customers over the disruption with our PayBill numbers affecting deposits and withdrawals.
“We are giving the issue our maximum attention. The hitch arises from the provider’s side who we are in consultation with, in a bid to restore services.
“Our team assures you the safety of your money,” the giant betting firm explained on November 1.
Money laundering accusations would later fly around.
In a statement, Paul Wanderi Ndung’u, who owns 17 percent of Pevans East Africa Ltd, said that Kenyan shareholders were probably swindled by foreign investors who colluded with CEO Karauri.
In a period of three years, Mr Ndung’u said, Pevans East Africa Ltd (Sportpesa) had transferred over US$250,000,000 (approximately Ksh25 billion) to various offshore accounts in Isle of Man, Dubai and Las Palmas/Canary Islands and the UK.
Also, other billions had been transferred to Tanzania and South Africa.
“Shareholders have also come to learn that subsequent to ceasing operations, US$500,000 (Ksh500 million) has been transferred from Pevans to Sportpesa South Africa while within the two years $17,500,000 (Ksh1.75 billion) has been transferred to Sportpesa Tanzania,” said Ndung’u.
It is the swindling and the wiring of some Sh29 billion to overseas accounts, that a weekly publication details led to fists flying during a recent board meeting.
So bad was the exchange that those present are said to have taken cover under the tables.
In his corner, Mr Ndung’u had Robert Wanyoike, Francis Waweru, Asenath Wacera and a Peter Kihanya.
It is said that the local shareholders are worried that Karauri in cahoots with Bulgarian investors defrauded them.
Out of the ten known shareholders for Sportpesa (Pevans), there are five Kenyan shareholders having a cumulative of 48% of the shares. There are three Bulgarians with 26% of the total shares and one American with 21% of shares. One company from England holds 5% of shares.
Word also has it that the Bulgarian investors had sexual encounters with top female managers when SportPesa was at the top of the game.
The firm is currently being investigated by the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) of fraud.
The sleuths are apparently looking into the blocked partnership between SportPesa and Milestone Games Ltd over suspicion that it is being used to defraud Kenyans.