Caption: Scum of the earth and Sportpesa CEO Ronald Karauri
Behind every story of wealth, is a great crime and the unfolding scenario where a Kenyan startup by the name of Sport Pesa is throwing wards of cash to foreign clubs, has left everyone baffled. Do Kenyans bet that much? How did this happen in the first place?
Concerns have been raised about the product placement, advertising and regulations regarding the conduct and how such companies market themselves. Sport Pesa isn’t a phenomenon, neither is it an invention that Kenya is exporting abroad. It is a gambling addiction that has unfortunately been framed as an economic activity.
To date, Sport Pesa maintains a close partnership with the Sports Journalists Association of Kenya (SJAK) where leading sports journalists are “sponsored” on trips to England, put on a monthly retainer and showered with gifts and cash-incentives to ensure that the brand name remains on mainstream media wires. That alone constitutes a grave and flagrant abuse of media ethics in the country, even as the toothless Media Council of Kenya remains silent.
It is still unclear why despite obvious harmful consequences of betting leading to addiction and mental illness, Sport Pesa and other betting companies are still being allowed to advertise on prime-time TV capturing the dumb and redundant 8-4-4 educated lot of Kenyans, who believe everything they see in the mainstream media. Using adverts portraying betting as an economic activity, Sport Pesa endeared itself to the masse, baiting them using narratives creating the picture of wealth from wins.
Their entry to Europe has brought renewed interest in their company, with them being forced to reveal financial details about their company, plus for the first time, going public about the structure of their shareholding.
Caption : Sportpesa Shareholding
While we have previosly captured the Bulgarian side, quoting Bulgarian media depicting a shareholder as a ring-leader for the Bulgarian mob, what caught our attention was the substantial 7% shareholding by Roland Karauri the CEO of Sport Pesa.
As a young pilot in his early 40’s, former Mangu High School alumni, just how did Karauri land such cash to be able to invest in this startup? He was previously a pilot and we all know what pilots earn and it isn’t substantial enough to own a stake in the billion-shilling raking Sport Pesa.
So what was the source of Ronald Karauri’s money?
What many may not be able to connect is the fact that Ronald Karauri also doubled-up as the Secretary General of the Kenya Airline Pilots Association (KALPA) during the same period that the thief of Maasai origin Titus Naikuni plundered the National carrier Kenya Airways to its death-bed. Using proceeds from his theft, Naikuni purchased the Ole Sereni Hotel right adjacent to the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, meaning that an entire airline and many jobs have been lost so as to acquire a mere hotel.
During the period of massive graft and endemic looting by Titus Naikuni, there was defeating silence by the then office-bearers of KALPA, even as Kenya Airways embarked on massive retrenchment of cabin-crew and overseeing a so-called staff rationalisation program. KALPA under Karauri was also strangely silent when Naikuni embarked on a fuel-hedging program that depleted the coffers of the once glorious airline. KALPA remained silent when Titus Naikuni embarked on an aircraft leasing scheme for high-maintenance Embraers, many of which lied idle at what is referred to in aviation-circles as the “graveyard”.
The silence wasn’t by coincidence. Ronald Karauri had been Bribed massively by Titus Naikuni to go silent in the midst of corruption and looting in Kenya Airways. Karauri endorsed the mass retrenchments and kept quiet even as the airline posting loss after loss. He was basically Titus Naikuni’s henchman in KALPA which should have been the first to signal everyone that all wasn’t well.
So basically Sport Pesa is a company borne out of the proceeds of crime, just as MCheza is a vehicle for the Gichuru’s to launder money that Samuel Gichuru looted during his stint as the Kenya Power and Lighting Company MD.
These are not companies that should be celebrated, and neither should they be referenced as a parameter portraying Kenya’s growth. The money to start-up these companies isnt exactly Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) but simply Proceeds of Crime (POC).
Business journalists and sports scribes should cease henceforth depicting betting as an economic activity driving the development agenda.
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