SportPesa in fresh trouble over contempt of court

A company operating the SportPesa trademark has been sued for contempt of court for continued use of the brand.

Milestone Game Limited, whose directors include Kasarani MP Ronald Karauri and Bulgarian nationals, has been accused of disregarding orders that prevented it from operating SportPesa issued on September 19.

In court documents seen by The Standard, Asenath Maina, a director of Pevans East Africa, the firm that established SportPesa, described Milestone’s continued use of the SportPesa brand as a ridicule to the court, and wants action against the firm.

“The defendants’ disobedience is designed to defeat justice and render the proceedings herein a nullity and a mere academic exercise,” Ms Maina states. “The claimant invites the honourable court to rise to its judicial duty to defend the integrity of the judicial process, the constitutional values of rule of law and to defend the administration of justice by forthwith punishing the defendants for their egregious acts of contempt committed against this honourable court.”

On September 19, High Court judge Anthony Ndung’u suspended a licence issued to Milestone by the Betting Control and Licensing Board (BCLB) allowing it to run SportPesa. Milestone has since filed an application for judicial review of the said decision.

"Orders given by this honourable court on the 19th of September were issued without first hearing the interested party and thus amount to a violation of the interested party's non derogable right to a fair trial," Milestone's operating manager Bernard Chauro states in an affidavit.

At the same time, two directors of BCLB denied issuing the licence on August 17.

In separate affidavits, Joy Masinde and Sabrina Kanini, two directors of the BCLB, say that betting license 00448, which Milestone was issued allowing it to run SportPesa was not issued procedurally, testifying that board members did not deliberate on the matter as is required.

“I wish to also confirm that the current license being number 00448 being quoted by the interested party was not issued after consideration by the board,” Ms Masinde says, stating that the last time the board sat was in April, four months before Milestone got the SportPesa operating license.

Ms Kanini concurs, pleading with the court to exonerate her from any culpability in the contempt case.

“I have not failed to obey the order of this honourable court. If at all the interested party is still operating despite being served with a court order, it is not doing so (by) my blessings or involvement as an individual member of the board,” she states in her affidavit.

Pevans and Milestone are locked in a legal battle over SportPesa, with the former arguing that the brand was transferred illegally to Milestone. A case pitting directors of Pevans, including co-director Paul Ndung’u is slated for mention on Monday. Ms Maina owns 21 per cent share at Pevans, with Mr Ndung’u holding 17 per cent.

They both alleged that the brand’s transfer, which include Paybill numbers 955100 and 9555700 as well as the short-code 79079 among other assets, was done through forgery of documents and without the approval of the Pevans board.

Pevans lost its SportPesa operating license in 2019 following claims by the Kenya Revenue Authority that it had defaulted Sh95 billion in taxes.

Milestone, whose shareholders include Karauri and foreign nationals, has been operating under the 2020 orders for the last two years.