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Tahir Sheikh Said (TSS): The Mombasa Billionaire Who Left His Children With Huge Debts

The name Tahir Sheikh Said, or simply TSS as he was popularly known, was equated with wealth and power. TSS, together with other tycoons, decided who got  elected by financing handpicked candidates and blocking their opposition.

According to a story in the Standard newspaper titledMombasa Tycoon Tahir Sheikh Said (TSS) dies a broken hearted man’, his influence fizzled out when Kibaki was elected president and his fortunes dwindled further under the Jubilee regime. 

TSS was saddled with debts and worn out with infighting among his sons and other family members who wanted a slice of his vast wealth. The Star reported that this may have ultimately led to his death on 10, January 2017. 

Politics and Businesses 

The tycoon, who was born in Moyale in 1942, became a dominant figure within the religious and political circles in Mombasa. He was KANU Lamu branch chairman, a position he held until 2002.

Away from politics, his business foothold stretched over a number of sectors including transportation, real estate, tea and coffee export and food processing. He owned buses, lorries, Unga Millers (a leading flour manufacturer), Juja Coffee Exporters, and the 14-floor TSS Tower in Mombasa. 

An Empire of Debt 

The once influential TSS empire began to crumble as various banks called in on their loans that amounted to over Sh8 billion. 

In 2014, the government seized huge tracts of land belonging to the tycoon in Lamu and canceled their title deeds. The land had been used to secure loans of more than Sh5 billion. The Mombasa county government also threatened to take over the TSS Tower as penalty for defaulting on paying rates amounting to million of shillings. 

His health started deteriorating in 2016 as his debts mounted coupled with feuding children and other family members for a cut of his massive wealth. The now subdued billionaire found himself in and out of Kenya for medical attention as his family continued to hog news headlines. 

He obtained a restraining order from the court after the Bank of Africa (BoA) started following him over a Sh1 billion loan. The sickly tycoon blamed his financial woes on his sons and brother in law that led BoA to go after assets owned by TSS Transporters Ltd and TSS Investment Ltd because of a loan taken by a related company, Juja Coffee Exporters Ltd.

In May 2016, the Kenya Commercial Bank took over TSS Unga Millers following default on loans exceeding Sh1 billion. 

The fallen businessman had majority shares in both Transmara Logistics Limited and TSS Pop In Service Stations. His sons Sabir and Sheikh Noorein  began fighting for control of the  companies while he was still alive. A local daily reported he died a broken hearted man due to his sons’ row. 

Sale of his properties

In 2021, the National Bank of Kenya (NBK) was cleared by a three judge bench to auction property of the late TSS over a Sh3.7 billion loan. The Court of Appeal ruled that Juja Coffee Exporters Limited had admitted to taking a loan from the bank and the dispute over the size of the unpaid loan was not enough to stop the auction of the property in Lamu. 

Fraud Allegations 

In 2018, his son told a court that their father had been defrauded Sh10 billion. Five people were charged for this crime. The fraud was discovered after suppliers complained of not having been paid. An investigation was then carried out to find out why they hadn’t been paid yet the money was released.

The suspects reportedly filed false transfer of shares and change in directorship of TSS Group with a registered company claiming the late tycoon had handed over his shares. They were also accused of forging a guarantee indemnity enabling them to secure a loan from KCB. 

TSS  Grain, Juja Coffee Exporters, TSS Investment, TSS Salt Manufacturers and Mvita bottlers are the companies that were allegedly defrauded. During the case, it was discovered that TSS owed Sh1.6 billion loans to the following banks: Imperial, National Bank of Kenya, Habib and Bank of Africa. 

Philanthropy

The coastal people also knew him as a philanthropic man who helped those in need. Tahir Sheikh Said built the iconic Sheikh Noorein Mosque in Mombasa with a capacity of over 1,500 worshippers.

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