Sports betting company Sportpesa held billions of shillings in its accounts by the time its licence was revoked in July 2019, some belonging to Kenyans while another chunk belonged to the company.
Since then, billions have been wired to offshore accounts and may never be recovered, one of the shareholders has revealed.
In a statement, Paul Wanderi Ndung’u, who owns 17 percent of Sportpesa parent company Pevans East Africa Ltd, said that Kenyan shareholders were probably swindled by foreign investors who colluded with the current CEO Ronald Karauri.
He says that according to an audit, within three years, Pevans East Africa Ltd (Sportpesa) has 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 were 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,” says Ndung’u.
This means that gamblers who had their money in Sportpesa wallets at the time it was suspended might never recover it. When Karauri announced the return of Sportpesa, the firm used a new domain run by a new company, Milestone Games Limited. Gamblers were not able to recover their previous accounts. The new a entity was suspended by the Betting Control and Licencing Board (BCLB) within hours.
According to Ndung’u, the new entity was launched without the knowledge of other shareholders, and suspects it was a plan to swindle them.
“That the company Milestone Games Limited, its shareholding ownership whether through proxies, trustees or otherwise is unknown to me. The shareholders of Pevans East Africa Limited who are the owners of the Sportpesa Brand intellectual properties, its short codes, and assorted Mpesa paybill numbers at both Safaricom and Airtel have never been informed of any impeding resumption of Sportpesa business in Kenya as stated in the press release by Sportpesa chief executive officer Ronald Karauri,” said Ndung’u.
He reveals that after the revocation of the company’s license and subsequent deportation of the executive directors, efforts to have a forensic audit have continued to be frustrated.
As a result of these suspicious transactions, the corporate governance problems and the handling of a tax dispute with KRA, PriwaterhouseCoopers resigned as the auditor of the Kenyan business.
In the UK, banks requested Pevans’ sister company Sportpesa Global Holdings to close its accounts while KPMG and Deloitte &Touche resigned as auditors and tax advisers respectively.
Suspected of money laundering, officers from UK’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) also visited Sportpesa’s Nairobi office –the source of the funds.
According to Friday’s press release by BCLB it was revealed that the Sportpesa brand is owned by Sportpesa Global Holdings Limited -SGHL, instead of Pevans East Africa Ltd. This means that Pevans shareholders could have been swindled.
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.
Here’s the full list of the shareholders:-
- Gene Grand (American) -21%
- Guerassim Nikolov (Bulgarian) – 21%
- Asenath Wacera Maina (Kenyan) – 21%
- Paul Wanderi Ndung’u (Kenyan) -17%
- Ronald Kamwiko Karauri (Kenyan) – 6%
- Cellini Holdings – 5%
- Valentina Nikolaeva (Bulgarian) – 3%
- Robert Kenn Wanyoike Macharia (Kenyan) – 3%
- Ivan Kalpakchiev (Bulgarian) – 2%
- Francis Waweru Kiarie (Kenyan) – 1%