By Kariuki Kimani
Humphrey Kariuki Ndegwa is a business mogul who prefers to stay out of the limelight. He owns multi-billion businesses that make him a tidy sum. His ventures have been laden with as much success as controversies. The tycoon who wishes to be remembered when he is long gone for his efforts in wildlife conservancy, was a marked man during the reign of President Uhuru Kenyatta. The new sheriff in town has embraced him and he is back in business.
Here is his story as told by WoK.
Mr. Ndegwa was born in 1956 in Nyeri County. He was raised in a big family-five brothers and four sisters. Humphrey attended primary school in his home village before joining high school in Nairobi.
He attained his O’ levels from Nairobi School and his A’ levels at Kagumo High School. After his A’ levels, he took a break from academics and dived into the job market.
Humphrey kicked off his career at the Central Bank of Kenya as clerk when he was nineteen. He soon discovered that employment and being submissive to his superiors was not his cup of tea. His knack was in entrepreneurship.
He started importing and traded vehicles. It opened up his eyes to the immense possibility that lied in business. He made mind blowing margins importing and disposing cars. After accumulating a considerable bank balance and accompanied with his experience from traveling around the world, he went into a new venture.
Green Corner Restaurant
He developed Green Corner Restaurant in Nairobi’s Central Business District which soon became the option of choice for most professionals in the city. Firms would hold meetings at the facility and in turn brought business in numbers.
After his successes, he entered into the alcoholic beverages business. He forged partnerships with liquor producers in Europe and North America to ship in and sell their products.
He also distributed the products of big liquor brands such as Jack Daniels and Bacardi locally. The ventures made him good money, but before long he assessed that his lack of ownership rights in the liquor could be his biggest sell-out.
He started off his spirits business producing original and indigenous alcoholic drinks. Africa Spirits Limited, the creators of Kenyan, popular Blue Moon vodka and Legend brandy emerged. ASL continues to make massive income for the successful entrepreneur.
Humphrey moved to the oil sector. He started off at the National Oil Company of Kenya (NOCK). His work was to distribute the products within Kenyan borders. Mr. Ndegwa set up a small depot at the Kaboko border, which became the game changer in his oil venture. He was strategically placed to autonomously provide the World Food Program with oil.
More opportunities opened up and he was making money moves in Zambia, Tanzania and Sudan. He founded the Dalbit Petroleum company that distributes oil across Southern and East Africa and the Great Lakes Africa Energy company. The venture was successful and was awarded a tender by the Mozambican authorities to put up and operate a gas powered similar to the one in Zambia.
Notably, Mr. Ndegwa purchased the Mount Kenya Wildlife Conservancy and Animal Orphanage in his efforts to continue with his predecessors’ legacy of preserving endangered wildlife. This they do by tending to the sick ones, rehabilitation to health before sending them back to the wilderness.
Humphrey watches over several species including the Mountain Bongo antelopes and Pygmy Rhinos. The ranch is run by profits from his companies with governmental support in exempting these profits from taxation.
Humphrey runs his engagements in energy, drinks, real property, oil and hospitality under an umbrella; Janus Continental Group.
The business was found in possession of two hundred and fifty litres of ethanol whose custom duty of Ksh 7.4 million had not been paid, evasion of Ksh17 billion taxes, and having counterfeit custom duty receipts.
The case lasted for sixteen months before Milimani Law Courts Senior Magistrate Cheruiyot Kennedy acquitted him. The court arrived at the decision after the Director of Public Prosecution failed to provide evidence and witnesses. The case was acquitted on grounds of the constitutional provision of “fair trial through expeditious disposal of a criminal case”.
Mr. Ndegwa’s lawyers – Miller Cecil, Kilukumi Kioko, and Phillip Murgor – filing for their client’s reimbursement of cash bails and bonds deposited with the bank over the trial period. One was a Ksh 11 million cash bail the entrepreneur paid in February, 2019. The DPP had raised a proposal to consolidate Mr. Ndegwa’s pending cases and set a hearing later on. The Senior Magistrate rejected it on the grounds of the constitutional provisions.
Tussle with KRA
After the back and forth with the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA), the billionaire’s alcohol distiller was finally reopened. Since William Ruto ascended to power, Humphrey Kariuki troubles seems to have been put to rest. A statement from the taxman read:
“In collaboration with other investigative agencies, KRA has today overseen the handing over of Africa Spirits Limited by DCI (Directorate of Criminal Investigation) to the owners.
The Authority will facilitate the reopening and operation of the plant
“The reopening of Africa Spirits Limited aligns with the need for economic development and independence by maximizing revenue collection,”
The tycoon was among 12 individuals appointed to serve as members of the National Investment Council for a period of three years.
He is a husband to Stella Nasike.