Banking chiefs who threw weight and cash behind Raila’s failed attempt

In the run up to the Mt Kenya Foundation luncheon at the Safari Park Hotel that endorsed the candidature and support for Azimio Presidential candidate Raila Odinga in November 2021, a group of corporate titans met the veteran politician and made cash pledges towards the campaign.

Typical of any campaign with fervent hustings like last year’s presidential elections, the corporate leaders threw their weight behind Raila Odinga, discarding current President William Ruto who looked an underdog from the very start of the campaign season.

Backed by powerful politicians from the Mt Kenya regions that straddles five Mt Kenya counties and Embu, Meru and Tharaka in the former Eastern Province, it required a miracle to has Ruto win the elections at his first target.

Several informants to this story have corroborated a pattern that was well-choreographed to make sure the win was a closed chapter on the August 9 day of the elections.

A controversial politician from the Kalenjin Rift Valley who was present at the Raila Campaign Centre that was active for a while since 2020 when it became apparent retired President Uhuru Kenyatta was backing Odinga for his fifth stab at the presidency, says that corporate chief offered to meet Odinga at an exclusive hotel in Kiambu County, a request that was granted without fail.

The meeting convened by Equity Bank founder Peter Munga and Jubilee vice chairman David Murathe roped in leading corporate heads in the country including Equity Bank CEO James Mwangi, Cooperative Bank of Kenya MD and CEO Gideon Muriuki, NCBA Bank CEO James Gachora, KNCCI boss Richard Ngatia, Safaricom CEO Peter Ndegwa, Family Bank and Peter Kenneth who was a fast emerging figure within the coalition backing Raila. Kenneth owns Mayfair Bank, an institution that got its license in the runup to the 2017 General Elections.

Royal Media Services SK Macharia and a host of other tycoons from the Mt Kenya region joined public servants, ambassadors and senior political figures from the populous Kikuyu community to pledge their support to Raila Odinga who was running from the top political seat for a record fifth time.

Raila assured the corporate chiefs of his support in ensuring that they get a conducive business environment even as the leaders decried high taxation.

During the meeting, it is said those in attendance pledged personal finances with figures not less than Sh100 million.

“Yes, there was such a meeting, but not the magnitude you are talking about. The corporate chiefs made pledges and in fact, they made good their promises after the meeting and even attended many more meetings. Others I am not aware of, but, it is normal in an economic environment like Kenya to have these people attend as major stakeholders in the country’s economy.

“It was not restricted to bankers and industry chiefs, but there were also others in attendance including lecturers and administrators. You are not talking about the administrators who were invited by senior government officials at the time,” says a political analyst who works at the University of Nairobi.

It is said that apart from Munga and Mwangi attending from Equity Bank, other senior and middle level managers (names withheld), attended with hefty contributions towards the Raila Campaign. A former journalist working for the Raila team confirmed the meeting.

Apart from Equity’s Sh200 million donation, he also pledged to continue supporting the campaign to its very end, including organizing the One Million a Plate Dinner at the same venue a few days to the election date. Currently, Equity is fighting an identity crisis that has fermented over the years due to their close relationship with government officials and State House occupants.

With support of the so-called ‘Deep State and System’, the attendees were assured of State protection and support if Raila ascended to power, something that saw some of the corporate chiefs go out of their way to even attend partisan political campaign meetings addressed by Raila.

Whether Munga and Mwangi’s pledges and donations were personal or from the institution, could not be confirmed since other senior managers at the end made their own.

During the campaigns, Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua openly castigated Equity Bank staff for playing advocate to the Azimio cause, openly campaigning for Raila. During a rally in Muranga, Gachagua mentioned names of Equity branch managers, while at the same time accusing other staff involved in the campaigns.

An MP from Nyanza who attended the meeting says that the cash collected during the meeting ahead of the expense was well over Sh500 million and most of it actually banked the same evening.

Cooperative Bank’s Muriuki, faced with a baggage of land corruption, infidelity, nepotism at the institution he heads and has on many occasions been mentioned in several cases involving land deals in the country, pleged Sh200 million.

It is alleged that the cash donation was delivered by a relative who works for the bank, a Mr Francis Ngabi. Ngabi is also said to have attended subsequent meetings on behalf of the Muriuki.

At the moment, he is involved in a fight for his life after a group of squatters from Nairobi’s Embakasi area accused him of grabbing their piece of land valued at Sh1.2 billion.

At the same time, the squatters who alleged they were given the land by former President Daniel arap Moi accuse him of abuse of the police force in the area. The squatters accuse his company Gidjoy Investment Company of using influence and money to arrest, intimidate and even harm them using police officers stationed at Bururburu Police Station and Embakasi. Until recently, there was a permanent police presence on the disputed land in a clear case of misuse of the police officers in the country.

In the land case that has traveled through the judicial ecosystem, the squatters allege that Muriuki, a man of known wealth, means and influence in the country has been using delaying tactics to overturn a case that has over time been ruled against him. The matters are pending in court.

In December 2022, a court in Nairobi ruled against the bank after the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) successfully lodged an appeal in a tax evasion case.

In the Family Bank case, a dispute emanating from the National Youth Service (NYS) cash heist that has refused to go and it was instructive for the bank’s top managers to attend and at least seek to pledge their loyalty to a government, with the backing of the outgoing government and its embedded machinery was waiting for installation.

IN 2020, the five banks were fined Sh385 million as penalties for their respective violation of the various provisions of anti-money laundering laws in the second National Youth Service II scandal.

This is after the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) and the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) reached a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) with the five banks on the handling of proceeds from the NYS II scandal.

The five; Standard Chartered Bank, Equity, KCB, Cooperative Bank and the Diamond Trust Bank (DTB) were previously fined a combined Sh392 million by the CBK after months of investigations into the handling of the NYS II loot.

The targeted inspection in 2018 revealed the possibility of criminal culpability for the violation of AML/CFT laws in addition to administrative lapses.

Terms from the DPA agreement obligates implicated banks to commit to the review and implementation of corrective measures including the review of know your customer (KYC) compliance status and the enhancement of existing Anti-Money Laundering and Combating the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) monitoring systems.

During the meeting, Azimio politicians including Murathe and Nairobi Jubilee chairman James Mwangi and KNCCI chairman Richard Ngatia sought to assure the leaders of support and protection of their business interests.

Ngatia for instance spoke of the desire to see small scale traders in Nairobi’s River Road and Nyamakima area be protected from constant State harassment and unbearable interference of their business concerns.

“Ngatia spoke strongly of many things and reminded those in attendance that the fulfillment of the goal of winning the top seat rested on the shoulders of the business leaders who through influence and financial support could ensure Raila gets a first round election victory. He at least was open in his speech and reminded the leaders that it was Uhuru’s government and the guarantee of peace by Raila that their institutions were running uninterrupted,” says a Jubilee MP who lost his seat in Kiambu County.

NCBA on the other hand have seen a fair share of bad publicity in the recent months following a decision to waive Sh350 million during the merger with NIC Bank, another institution whose ownership is not so different from Kenya considering its founders background. The Ndegwa family were represented by a proxy during the meeting who made a pledge of Sh10 million towards the campaign kitty.

NCBA on the other hand has been running the successful MShwari business alongside Safaricom in a deal that many industry players have questioned the decision behind its award at a time when other bigger banks in the market sought to be included. It is alleged that the bad blood among certain regulators in the country led to the single sourcing of the mobile telephone loan facility.

During the meeting, the bankers promised to use their extensive branch networks to ensure a first round victory for Raila that was never to be actualise despite the strong campaign resources employed.

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