Mr. Kariuki, who holds dual citizenship from Cyprus, is the owner of Africa Spirits and Wines of the World. Together with a number of directors from African Spirits Limited he is currently facing charges of tax evasion amounting to Sh41 billion ($410 million).
The Kenyan billionaire and his wife Stella Nasike are among 26 investors identified by Cypriot authorities who may lose their Cypriot passports due to strict citizenship rules introduced by the European tax haven as part of a review of the 2013 policy that granted a passport to anybody who invested at least $2.2 million in the local economy, the Politis newspaper reported.
According to various news agencies from Cyprus, the crackdown could be effected as soon as the end of this month, leaving Mr Kariuki who has since 2016 had dual citizenship to only have a Kenyan passport.
“Chinese national Zhang Shumin, reportedly linked to a gold scam, his wife and three children are on the same list as well as Kenyan Humphrey Kariuki Ndegwa, believed to be involved in a financial scam and his wife,” the Cyprus Mail reported on Wednesday.
Another prominent businessman who was stripped of his Cypriot citizenship is Olag Deripaska, a Russian billionaire with ties to the Kremlin. Mr Deripaska was once Russia’s richest man, making his fortune by consolidating Siberia’s vast aluminum resources under his control in the 1990s.
The loss of passports is as a result of a Cyprus Cabinet meeting three weeks ago that decided to introduce stricter controls.
“If there were nine investment cases, concerning 26 people among 4,000 applications, it is logical that some would be problematic when controls weren’t strict,” Cyprus Interior Minister Constantinos Petrides was quoted by the Cyprus Mail on November 4.
“There were mistakes, it was a mistake not to have criteria, for instance, for high-risk persons,” he said.
Mr.Kariuki hit headlines early this year after the Director of Criminal Investigations, George Kinoti, led detectives in a major raid at his factories located in Thika where over a million bottles of assorted alcoholic drinks and 24,000 counterfeit excise stamps were seized.
A Cypriot passport does enables one to do business throughout the European Union, since Cyrus is a member. Its investor citizenship has, however, of late been criticised by other EU members and Transparency International, who fear it could become a “gateway to Europe for corrupt people and money laundering”, according to TI’s report released in August.
As a result, Cyprus has been under pressure from the EU to tighten entry of foreigners into the scheme.