Dick Wathika was a male with a very good coronary heart. While troubled, his coronary heart was healthful.
That was until he met two Bulgarians, Guerassim Nikolov and Gene Grand, in Nairobi. They wanted his enable to commence a gambling small business, and he provided to deal.
Wathika, a likeable bespectacled politician with a cheerful persona, place his coronary heart into it and, as he would realise alternatively far too late, his wellbeing also.
For a male who had grown up in Maringo ward in Nairobi’s Eastlands, Wathika, a boxer, looked streetwise. But appears to be like deceive.
His star started climbing right after he tossed himself into national politics in 1992, and at only 19, he became Kenya’s youngest councillor and later on, Nairobi’s youngest mayor.
He also served as Makadara MP amongst 2007 and 2010 in advance of his election was nullified.
But SportPesa – or somewhat existence in the gambling dungeons the place mischief and sleaze rule – was a diverse ballgame. It was hazardous, tough and operate guiding the scenes by the mafia, whose enjoy for lavish get-togethers, yachts and jets was epic. It was Wathika who went to glimpse for Nairobi billionaire Paul Ndung’u, an accountant who created his fortune as a Safaricom supplier, to commit in SportPesa.
The billionaire would dip into his deep pockets to inject the a great deal-essential money to increase first promoting efforts for SportPesa, to propel it into the massive leagues. The two Ndung’u and Wathika knew quite minimal about betting. But regrettably for them, inspite of the fortune it built for them, it would conclude in dying for Wathika and tears for Ndung’u.
SportPesa was in lots of approaches a relatives-run company. Certainly, the Bulgarian families are distantly linked by marriage. But irrespective of their blended skills and knowledge, SportPesa may possibly by no means have acquired off the ground have been it not for its deep-pocketed Nairobi shareholders.
Kenya Charity Sweepstake
It was Wathika who opened the doorways for Nikolov and Grand’s lottery and casinos to prosper in the money. In early 2005, Wathika showed how far he was inclined to go to have the Bulgarians established up store.
1 early morning in 2005, hundreds of Kenya Charity Sweepstake ticket sellers woke up to obtain that their lottery kiosks, their livelihoods, demolished by the defunct Nairobi Metropolis Council.
The demolitions occurred with the blessings of Wathika. Booths owned by Nikolov’s Toto 6/49 lottery occupied their vacated places. In the several years soon after, Wathika was occasionally spotted in Nairobi accommodations in the business of the Bulgarians. He informed everyone who cared to check with that they had been his enterprise associates.
Right before Ndung’u came entirely on board, Wathika was the fiscally secure partner in the business enterprise. He bailed out the Bulgarians on far more than a person situation when unpaid debts and the odd unanticipated player jackpot threatened to cripple their gambling organizations.
This is how he ended up getting a main shareholder and founding chairman of SportPesa, which introduced in Nairobi in 2014.
For his aspect, Ndung’u was at very first an absentee director irrespective of placing in Sh100 million to begin off the undertaking. Though he owned 17 for every cent shareholding in Pevans East Africa Ltd, the corporation that would register the SportPesa trademark, he experienced left Wathika as his boardroom sentry – to continue to keep look at over the Bulgarians, whom he hardly knew.
But as in the proverbial tale of the Arab, the camel and the tent, Wathika shortly identified out that soon after billions begun flowing into SportPesa coffers, his space in the boardroom was shrinking. In its place, a newcomer, a college engineering system dropout-turned-pilot, Ronald Karauri, and the two Bulgarians experienced slowly but surely edged him out of the choice-creating desk.
Like Wathika, Karauri – a son of previous Tigania MP Adams Karauri – had also grown up in Eastlands, in Buru Buru Estate.
An ‘A’ university student at Mang’u Large College, he experienced been admitted to research engineering at the University of Nairobi and then quit to be a part of Kenya Airways as a trainee pilot.
Karauri learned speedily, just after all he was a person of the greatest aviation college students nationally in secondary university exams. Karauri was bold. Even though serving as a pilot, he experienced been fascinated by the Texas hold ‘em poker video game that he performed with his mates for pleasurable. And, as he would later on say, that is how he uncovered himself at Finix Casino in Nairobi’s Hurlingham portion generating bets on serious money – relatively than playing the activity with his good friends.
Karauri’s Sh30m expense
It was at the poker desk that he met the Bulgarians, the proprietors of Finix Casino, regarded for its good atmosphere and complimentary foods and drinks. He experienced a great task as a captain with Kenya Airways and had Sh30 million to spend. Wathika was one more regular at the casino.
The previous Nairobi mayor, who experienced also contested the Mukurweini seat and polled 15,071 votes on a Mazingira Bash ticket in opposition to Kabando wa Kabondo’s 15,454 votes, experienced known the Bulgarians considering that their arrival in Kenya, encouraging them to set up lottery booths about the metropolis.
By getting city tycoons to spend in the Bulgarians’ job, Wathika experienced won some shares and was detailed as the board chairman. Kenya was witnessing a gambling boom, fuelled by a quicker web, a enjoy of the English Premier League and much less expensive telephones.
SportPesa was launched in February 2014 with fanfare to, perhaps, choose edge of the Fifa Globe Cup that would get spot in Brazil from June 12 to July 13, 2014. The trend had not been expected, and the torrent of money was dizzying.
It is not apparent at what level the relationship involving Wathika and the Bulgarians commenced to bitter. But by December 2015, Wathika was a disturbed gentleman. And so had been his business enterprise friends.
Ahead of SportPesa began its tax-dodging mayhem, its gambling likely had been examined by way of an SMS-centered lotto Shinda Clever 6969, which had brought in hundreds of millions of shillings and was rapidly flagged by the Kenya Earnings Authority.
But Wathika could see that matters have been not going properly. His blood tension rose. He was now trapped in the bowels of an international gambling syndicate – exactly where tax evasion, dollars laundering and delicate threats are element of the enterprise cuisine.
Karauri give up his KQ career, much to the disappointment of his friends, to develop into the CEO of SportPesa. He took around Wathika’s corner office.
Wathika badly preferred his place of work on the 3rd ground of The Chancery building on Nairobi’s Valley Road, at least to get a sense from inside of of what was going on in SportPesa, a brand title he had aided to build by bringing in Ndung’u – a person who experienced injected Sh100 million to enable the business enterprise commence.
By 2015, the Bulgarians owned 21 per cent of the business and Ndung’u 17 per cent. Though it experienced been agreed that any person with more than a 5 for each cent stake could be a part of the board, some of the major shareholders, like Ndung’u, had left Wathika to hold watch – possibly the explanation he was staying sidelined.
His well being took a direct strike.
By Oct 2015, when he was initially admitted to Karen Medical center with blood strain, it was now clear that SportPesa was getting a toll on his overall health. At the medical center, those who observed him say, any dialogue of SportPesa would result in an attack and nurses had to check with visitors out just after the bedside monitors monitoring blood force sounded an alarm.
Then the worst occurred.
December 14, 2015. Wathika is invited to go and thrash out the concerns at Finix Casino. He drove himself and fulfilled the Bulgarians. The meeting went on until finally late afternoon. In advance of it finished, the previous mayor collapsed. But he quickly picked himself up.
As he stepped out of the boardroom some minutes to 7pm, he collapsed one a lot more time at the doorstep. An artery experienced ruptured, according to a post-mortem report.
He died of suspected cardiac arrest that December. Gambling was not a safe bet, even as a business.
Although Wathika’s pals questioned, albeit privately, why the Bulgarians did not hurry him to the close by Nairobi Healthcare facility, some 600 metres absent, and opted to travel with him, and in the evening site visitors jam, for 12km to Karen Medical center, no one was keen to expose the infighting at SportPesa.
Wathika’s cellular phone disappeared way too, leaving lots of unanswered questions.
Just what took place at Finix On line casino? For this and a great deal more, hear to ‘A Country of Gamblers’, a podcast about the increase, fall and tried resurrection of SportPesa.
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