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Manu Chandaria-linked firm exposed for failing to honour redundancy terms

CAPTION: Billionaire industrialist Manu Chandaria whose firm Kaluworks Limited was placed under receivership in 2021

Frustrated former employees of a manufacturing firm linked to billionaire industrialist Manu Chandaria have accused the company of failing to honour the terms and conditions of a redundancy programme triggered last year.

Speaking anonymously to this site’s Chief Editor, a representative of the workers revealed that when Kaluworks – one of Kenya’s largest manufacturers of aluminium utensils and roofing sheets – was placed under receivership in June 2021, the company lured them into signing a temporary layoff deal only to abandon them after the first month.

Ever a salary was disbursed in July 2021, the workers are yet to receive a single penny over six months down the line.

“Waliwaambia ati waende mtaa watakua wakipewa salary, wakafunikwa macho na doo ya mwezi moja sai pesa ya miezi sita bado wajalipa na vile nikugumu jo kwani wanafikiri keja na fees zinalipwa na nini?” our source asks in part of the message.

In a notice that took effect in May last year, the NCBA Bank of Kenya placed Kaluworks Limited under receivership, with effect from 27th May 2021, over the non-payment of a $40 million (Sh4.3 billion) debt and appointed one Pongangipalli Rao as the firm’s temporary receiver-manager as they sought to either turn around the firm or protect its assets.

The receivership came only months after several other lenders scrambled for auctioneers and debt collectors to auction multimillion-dollar properties which included residential and commercial complexes that had been used to guarantee loans for Kaluworks.

The fall and death of Kaluworks

But even before this moment that marked a rare dent on Chandaria’s otherwise impeccable resume, persistent turbulence had rocked Kaluworks in previous years as its sales slumped on the back of heightened competition from other manufacturers as well as an influx of imports.

At the time, employees of the flagship enterprise complained of the hardships they were going through as they often missed regular salary payments.

The longsuffering staff at Kaluworks felt particularly offended that as they were forced to forego their benefits, their employer appeared to have gone on a media bombardment, hopping from one media house to another to ‘inspire Kenyans’ with his dubious rags-to-riches story ostensibly built on hard work and humility.

As the once-thriving enterprise lay on its deathbed, Chandaria kept laundering his so-called big name and entered into contracts with vendors and borrowed heavily from banks allegedly with no intention whatsoever of honouring those obligations.

The firm had defaulted on over Sh6 billion in bank loans and Sh169 million commercial paper debt owed to Sanlam Insurance.

An even bigger shocker was to come when Chandaria tried in vain to dissociate himself from the firm immediately after it had borrowed the billions.

Kaluworks is a subsidiary of Clovis Company Limited, a Bermuda-registered investment holding company that is owned by the Comcraft Group, of which Chandaria is the chairman and controlling shareholder.

But as all this was happening, sources at the company hinted that the financial troubles that faced Kaluworks were not solely caused by the sharp decline in sales, but an outright insider theft by Chandaria and his cronies who embarked on massive siphoning of borrowed funds from the enterprise.

It was no surprise therefore that Chandaria later proceeded to transfer all his shares in the manufacturer to his cousins and other proxies, in an attempt to justify his claims that he had no connection with the company.

Baring these facts in mind, it is absolutely mindboggling how criminal investigation authorities are yet to close in on Chandaria’s bare-faced attempts at financial fraud intended to escape meeting his financial obligations.

The collapse of Kaluworks spelt doom to thousands of helpless employees, their families and dependants, and a shock to many Kenyans who had grown over many generations with Kaluworks household products such as their popular aluminium sufurias, plates and pans.

This harsh reality does not seem to rhyme at all with the artificial public persona of Chandaria as a self-styled “philanthropist” who says he was inspired by Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy and who does not miss any opportunity to remind us all of his purported humility.

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