Last Friday, there was a bold tweet by the CEO of Sportpesa announcing the return of the company to full business, with partnerships for sports development to follow.
This comes after a crackdown last year crackdown on gambling companies through a moral push, taxation claims and difficulties renewing licenses, which all led many of the top betting companies to scale back their sponsorships and operations.
But the announcement, just as the English and European soccer leagues that are popular with betting punters get into gear, was followed by a surprising turn of events.
The following morning, the Chairman of the Betting Control and Licensing Board had a press conference and issued a statement about information that Sportpesa Global had granted to Milestone Games permission to operate as ‘Sportpesa’. It went on to say that had licensed Milestone to operate in the country, but asserted that Sportpesa is owned by Pevans East Africa and that no other company can use its name brand, domains and mobile phone shortcodes – asked directed Milestone to use its own website.
Then over the weekend, one of the other Sportpesa shareholders, Paul Wanderi Ndung’u also released a statement on behalf of Kenyan shareholders of Sportpesa and said he had been unaware of the developments with Milestone. He also made some serious claims about the company:
- Said the problems of the company started in 2017 when its executive directors allied with its foreign shareholders and started running the company without reference to the board.
- Said that another director, Asenath Maina, had requested a forensic audit in 2019 on the firm, but that the foreign shareholders, who had been since been deported from Kenya, continue to frustrate the audit.
- In three years Pevans East Africa (Sportpesa) has transferred $250 million to the Isle of Man, Dubai, the Canary Islands and the UK. Then, after the company closed, it transferred another $17.5 million to Sportpesa Tanzania and $0.5 million to Sportpesa South Africa.
- KPMG and Deloitte &Touche have resigned as auditors and tax advisers respectively of Sportpesa Global in the UK, while PricewaterhouseCoopers resigned as the auditor of the Kenyan business.
- Officers from the UK’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) have visited Sportpesa’s Nairobi office – and this was linked to negative media and parliamentary coverage in the UK.
EDIT May 2022: In a case pitting Asenath Maina, a shareholder of Pevans East Africa Limited against former Sportpesa CEO, Ronald Karauri, a high court judge granted a temporary order restraining the transfer of “Sportpesa” trademark and brands to Milestone Games and Sportpesa Global Holdings. Also, did Sportpesa make a profit of Kshs 12.9 billion in five years? More here.
To be continued . .