Yagnesh Devani: The Tycoon Who Plunged Kenya Into A Fuel Shortage, Fled With Country’s ksh9 Billion

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Yagnesh Devani: The Tycoon Who Plunged Kenya Into A Fuel Shortage, Fled With Country's ksh9 Billion
Yagnesh Devani Photo/TheStar

Most Kenyans vividly remember the 2009 Triton Oil Scandal which left the country facing fuel shortage. This happened after a company named Triton Petroleum Limited was given a tender by Kenya Pipeline Company (KPC) to supply oil to the country. The company collapsed shortly afterward and the chairman escaped with Kenya’s Ksh 9 billion.

In this article, WoK brings you the story of Yagnesh Devani – the chairman of Triton Petroleum Limited who has been on the run for over 12 years.

Yagnesh Devani Background

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Yagnesh Devani founded Triton Petroleum limited in 2000. The father of one is a trained stockbroker and commodity trader with interests in the oil industry. Devani was born in Kenya in March 1965 and by the time he was in his early thirties, he was enjoying high level connections with the political forces in the government including ministers and permanent secretaries. In 2006 during the launch of Triton’s LPG depot, political heavyweights such as the then vice president Moody Awori, Hon Raila Odinga and Hon Uhuru Kenyatta were in attendance. He was a close confidant of President Daniel arap Moi which led his company to clinch lucrative government contracts including supplying petroleum products to the Kenya Power and Lighting Company (KPLC).

Yagnesh Devani: The Tycoon Who Plunged Kenya Into A Fuel Shortage, Fled With Country's ksh9 Billion
L-R: Ex-Premier Raila Odinga, Former VP Moody Awori, Yagnesh Devani And President Uhuru Kenyatta Photo/Daily Nation

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Death Of Brother By Suicide

His brother Harish Devani, who was the owner of the multi-million Simmers Plaza Complex in Westlands, allegedly committed suicide after he scammed President Moi’s associates millions of dollars. Devani funded prominent politician’s campaigns in the 2007 general elections including attending the famous Ksh1 million a plate lunch fund-raise for the late President Mwai Kibaki re-election campaigns. Apart from clinching lucrative government deals, Triton was a local partner of Reliance Telecoms – a company owned by the richest man in Asia Mukesh Ambani. Devani also owns Shimmers Boutique Limited, Simkan Investment Group, Shimmers Group Limited, Simkan Investment Group, Shimmers Investment Limited, Sasha Holdings Limited, Jade Petroleum and Adra International.

Living a luxury life

Before he fled Kenya, Devani was living an extravagant lifestyle owning a fleet of luxurious vehicles including a Range rover, Audi, Mercedes S600 and Toyota Lexus. He owned a house in London worth Ksh 550 million as reported by the Business Daily. The publication also reveals that in 2007, Devani flew in guests from London and India in first class to come to Nairobi to celebrate his wife’s 40th birthday. He chartered a private jet to bring in a top musician from India to perform alongside a top UK Jazz band in the birthday party. Hairdressers for the ceremony were brought in from London and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The guests were awarded a classy Rolex watch each and the whole event was estimated to cost Ksh300 million.

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The Ksh 9 billion Scandal

The Ksh9 billion scandal famously known as the Triton Scandal happened in 2008 when Triton was allowed by KPC to withdraw 126 million liters of oil amounting to Ksh 9 billion. The company was later placed under receivership and collapsed afterward withdrawing the oil and selling it to the market. By January 2009 the country was witnessing a fuel shortage. Students going back to school and Kenyans returning to their work station after the December holidays were stuck. Televisions and radio stations were broadcasting the situations and there was panic in the country. Devani held 4,999,500 shares of the five million shares of the company and the remaining 500 shares were held by a company known as Triton Business Solution.

Escaping the country

Devani together with his friend Mahendra Pathak fled the country to Prayagraj India to perform rituals at the Magh Mela ceremony. The Magh Mela is an annual pilgrimage ceremony which attracts over 100 million visitors.  The festival which was declared by UNESCO in 2017 as an intangible cultural heritage, is a mixture of religious and elaborate rituals carried out on the sides of three holy rivers – Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati. The visitors bathe in the sacred water to cleanse themselves from their sins and get a liberation, which gives them a re-birth. After he attended the festival, Devani left India and relocated to the United Kingdom where he has been hiding since then. Kenya issued a warrant of arrest and wrote an extradition request to the UK government but 13 years later he remains nowhere to be seen.

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