Sportpesa Co-founder Fingers CEO Ronald Karauri, Spills Beans On Boardroom Wars And ‘Stolen’ Funds

Paul Wanderi Ndungu with Ronald Karauri
Paul Wanderi Ndung’u (left) and Sportpesa CEO Ronald Karauri. [PHOTO/ COURTESY]

A shareholder of Pevans East Africa which owns Sportpesa, Paul Ndung’u, has accused the CEO Ronald Karauri of working behind other shareholders’ back to relaunch the brand under new entity.

In a statement, Ndung’u said that he learnt of resumption of Kenyan operations for Sportpesa through the media.

“Just like the rest of the Kenyan public, I came to learn of the resumption of Sportpesa business through the social media at 9 p.m. on Friday,” said Ndung’u.

Sportpesa announced resumption of operations on Friday, under a new entity named Milestone Games Limited, but was suspended hours later by the Betting Control and Licensing Board (BCLB).

Read: Here’s President Kenyatta’s Kin Who Has Acquired Shares In Sportpesa Before Its Return

“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,” alleged Ndung’u.

Pevans East Africa Limited ceased business in July 2019 following revocation of its license by BCLB arising from a huge tax arrears dispute with the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA).

Pevans, up to June 2019, had 53 percent Kenyan shareholding. Ndung’u revealed that Sportpesa’s problems started as early as 2017, after the executive directors, who are also shareholders, resorted to running the company without reference to the board.

“During the first quarter of 2019, a board meeting was held at which one of the directors Mrs Asenath Maina as per the Articles of Association demanded a forensic audit of the books of the company since 2015 to date starting with management reports,” he added.

“Within this period the company received very negative coverage from mainstream UK newspapers The Gurdian, The Mirror and Financial Times and even a documentary on the BBC. In addition, there were sensational issues raised in British Parliament about Sportpesa. 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.”

Read: Sportpesa Makes A Comeback In Kenya

Ndung’u reveals that after persistent push the management report indicated that within three years Pevans East Africa Ltd (Sportpesa) has transferred over US$250,000,000 (Ksh25 billion) to various offshore accounts in Isle of Man, Dubai and Las Palmas/Canary Islands and the UK.

He further alleges 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.

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.

“From Friday’s press release by BCLB we also came to learn the claim that the Sportpesa brand is owned by Sportpesa Global Holdings Limited – SGHL which is contrary to the fact that Sportpesa brand started trading long before SGHL formation,” added Ndung’u.

SPHL is the holding company that owns the trading licences and businesses of Sportpesa Tanzania, Sportpesa UK, Sportpesa Italy and Sportpesa Russia. SPHL ownership was a mirror of Pevans EA Limited. However, within this year the foreign shareholders have fraudulently transferred the shareholding to themselves along with their associates,” he added.

Out of the ten known shareholders for Sportpesa, 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:-

  1. Gene Grand (American) -21%
  2. Guerassim Nikolov (Bulgarian) – 21%
  3. Asenath Wacera Maina (Kenyan) – 21%
  4. Paul Wanderi Ndung’u (Kenyan) -17%
  5. Ronald Kamwiko Karauri (Kenyan) – 6%
  6. Cellini Holdings – 5%
  7. Valentina Nikolaeva (Bulgarian) – 3%
  8. Robert Kenn Wanyoike Macharia (Kenyan) – 3%
  9. Ivan Kalpakchiev (Bulgarian) – 2%
  10. Francis Waweru Kiarie (Kenyan) – 1%

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