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Rajan and Shammit Ghai: Reclusive Tycoons Who Own The Mara River Camp & Athi Stores

Kenya is a top wildlife tourism destination in the world, and at the center of it all is the historic Maasai Mara National Reserve. The park boast several high-end tented camps and lodges, among them the iconic Mara River Camp.

The establishment is owned by reclusive tycoons Rajan and Shammit Ghai. According to his LinkedIn profile, Rajan is the managing director at Interken Freighters UK Limited where as his brother Shammit Ghai is the Executive Director at Athi Stores.

The two bought shares at Athi Stores in 1996 when the Varma Family was looking to expand its operations.

Rajan and Shammit Ghai: Reclusive Tycoons Who Own The Mara River Camp & Athi Stores
The Maasai Mara River Camp. |Photo| Courtesy|

Though successfully managing to maintain a life away from the media limelight, the Ghai brothers have found themselves on the news for all the wrong reasons. In 2021, they were charged over unpaid taxes after the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) sought to attach company assets to recover Ksh5 million in unpaid taxes.

Athi Stores was also sued by a section of employees who claimed that the company owed them unpaid dues amounting to Ksh30 million. Some claimed that they had not been paid for years.

The Varma Family further accused the Ghai brothers of failing to provide them access to financial records. They had only accessed records from 2008 to 2016. They filed a claim with the DCI in 2018 accusing the brothers of siphoning about Ksh2.5 billion from Athi Stores.

The family claimed that Shammit siphoned the first Ksh1.5 billion disguising as miscellaneous payments. The second Ksh1 billion was paid directly to his accounts.

The brothers were also accused of incorporating Uniken Enterprises to offer transport services. The Varmas claim that they had established that Athi Stores paid for the salaries, per diems, fuel and servicing of the Uniken vehicles.

According to the family, the Ghai brothers paid Ksh661 million to Uniken between 2008 and 2015 without supporting documentation.

They also claim that the brothers acquired the Mara River Camp with some of the money they siphoned out of Athi Stores.

The Varmas further claimed that the brothers diverted 76 million to two companies they own in the UK – Essar and Interken Freighters.

“Over the years all the company affairs were conducted in a cloud of secrecy by Mr Ghai with very little information being available to all shareholders and directors contrary to established law and principle,” Shamit Varma said in court papers.

“My uncle Mr Puri and I constantly tried with no avail to amicably resolve the issues. The wholesome and cumulative effect of the conduct by Mr Ghai runs counter to the fiduciary duty bestowed upon him and that any liabilities thus occasioned to the company can be indemnified if any wrongdoing on his part is unearthed.”

The Ghai brothers in their defence argued that the Varma’s had contravened part of the Memorandum of Understanding that was signed by investors of Athi Stores in 1996. He accused the family of attempting to sell a 20-acre parcel of land belonging to the company to Bamburi Cement.

“The company (Athi Stores) has been in the premises since then but there has been a fallout between the original shareholders and the new shareholders as the former (the Varmas) have secretly attempted to sell the property allocated to the company (the 20 acres allocated to Athi Stores),” Shammit said in court papers.

“I am aware that the applicants, together with Shamit Varma had attempted to sell Athi Stores’ property to Bamburi Cement. This forgery prompted Athi Stores’ advocates on December 9, 2020, to write to both Bamburi Cement and Lloyd Masika informing them of Athi Stores’ rights over the property. Having frustrated the applicants and their successor from illegally selling the property is what has prompted this application,” he added.

Mara River Camp

Mara River Camp is a classic tented camp nestled at the foot of the Oloololo Escarpment and on the Northwest boundary of the reserve. It offers guests an unparalleled setting created by a combination of unique architecture and structure, expressive decor and artistry and magnificent features all in one.

Rajan and Shammit Ghai: Reclusive Tycoons Who Own The Mara River Camp & Athi Stores
The Maasai Mara River Camp. |Photo| Courtesy|

Each tent features a patio with a view of the Mara River. It comes with a seating area and the private bathroom includes a shower.

Mara’s in-house restaurant offers buffet meals. Bush breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Coffee, tea, and snacks are provided at the camp before morning game drives, and guests can enjoy beverages on the evening game drives.

Daily activities at the camp include game drives in open 4×4 vehicles operated by experienced guides twice a day, bird watching and nature walks. Hot air balloon rides can also be arranged on request.

Free WiFi is available in public areas. The nearest airstrip for transfers to the camp is Kichwa Tembo.

Rajan and Shammit Ghai: Reclusive Tycoons Who Own The Mara River Camp & Athi Stores
The Maasai Mara River Camp. |Photo| Courtesy|

Interken Freighters

Established in 1984, Interken Freighters offers comprehensive multimodal logistics solutions to a global client base.  The company provides wide-ranging services from Air and Ocean freight Import & Export, Courier Services sourcing and procurement services.

Based less than a mile from London Heathrow, and with offices and agents across the globe, Interken has the capacity to transport goods globally.