The Thursday raid at Thika-based Africa Spirits Ltd has exposed a business empire built on what is believed to be criminal practices, unearthing the billionaires scandalous past of one of Kenya’s billionaires.

Humphrey Kariuki-the billionaire at the center of the scandal is not new to controversy ranging from money laundering, drug trafficking, smuggling and tax evasion allegations.

Nation reports that in 2001, the billionaire was linked to money laundering claims at Charter House Bank after his company, Crucial Properties Ltd, was given a Sh2 billion credit.

Shortly afterwards, Central Bank would move in and freeze the funds on suspicion that the businessman and his company was acting a conduit for money laundering.

His activities would also attract the attention of Anti-Narcotics Police Unit, freezing the funds as investigations were launched over the huge transfers.

According to WikiLeaks, his transactions with the collapsed Charter House Bank raised suspicion that the bank was in the business of laundering the proceeds of illegal trade and crime.

Kariuki who at the time was operating Green Corner Restaurant at Tumaini House in Nairobi later told journalists that the unusually large transfer was legitimate, adding that it was part of a Sh11 billion his company had negotiated with foreign lenders to be invested in Kenya.

Businessman Humphrey Kariuki
Businessman Humphrey Kariuki

The reclusive billionaire would retreat to reorganize his empire before emerging again with Africa Spirits Ltd.

Last year, the government through Competition Authority of Kenya thwarted a deal that would have seen his firm exclusively import and distribute exotic wine and spirit brands from seven international suppliers.

Competition Authority of Kenya argued out that the company’s exclusive distributorship agreements with the distributors would have seen it dominate the market and lock out rivals at the expense of consumers in a deal that would have seen the billionaire smile all the way to the bank.

DCI raids factory that manufactures blue moon & legend spirits

With that door closed, the billionaire appears to have found yet another way to mint billions in a scheme that police believe involved evasion of taxes, smuggling of ethanol and manufacturing of fake products.

A raid conducted by a multi-agency team led by IG Joseph Boinnet and DCI Director George Kinoti at his Thika-based company on Thursday found smuggled ethanol, 312,000 litres of illicit liquor and 21 million fake Kenya Revenue Authority stamps.

Legend brandy
Legend brandy

“We want to establish the exact components used in making the concentrates, their sources as well as quantities,” Mr Kinoti said.

“A report on how the plant has been supervised by relevant agencies for all those years must also be prepared. State officials found to have taken part in this scheme will face many charges, possibly even murder.” He added.

Boinnet also divulged that "The plant made fake products that may have destroyed the health of thousands of Kenyans".

Like every other entrepreneur, he has perfected the art of reinventing himself. It is not clear what he has up his sleeves even as DCI operatives launch a manhunt for him