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SportPesa expels two directors as wrangles deepen

Fashion and Beauty

Two directors of Pevans East Africa Limited, the company that founded SportPesa brand, have been expelled.

In a letter dated January 10, 2023, Asenath Wacera Maina and Paul Ndung'u, who jointly own 38 per cent of shares, were informed of their expulsion.

In the letter, Kasarani MP Ronald Karauri told the duo that their expulsion was unanimously agreed upon in a board meeting of Pevans held on October 8, 2022, in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

"The directors to immediately commission a comprehensive audit and seek the opinion of an auditor on the fair share of value of the company with a view of establishing what amount, if any, is payable to the expelled members," Karauri states as one of the resolutions of the Dar meeting.

"In compliance with the resolution of the majority shareholders, the directors have commissioned and obtained a valuation of the company from InVhestia Africa Ltd that indicated the value of the company at negative Kenyan Sh14,341,672,000)," the letter further reads.

The Kasarani MP, also a director and shareholder at Pevans, confirmed the letter seen by The Saturday Standard to be genuine. A notice by Pevans published in local dailies on Friday communicated Ndung'u's expulsion.

"The said person has been restrained by an order of the High Court... from interfering in the business of PEAL and/or SportPesa or making any representation, correspondence, contracts or taking any action whatsoever or dealing with any assets of the company or in any manner purporting to be acting on behalf of SportPesa pending the hearing of the application," the notice read.

But Ndung'u dismissed the notice of expulsion, saying the injunction on himself and Maina had expired "by operation of law on January 24".

"There was no meeting in Tanzania and we have gone to court saying that," Ndung'u added, saying they would not withdraw cases filed against their co-shareholders at Pevans. "The Constitution allows shareholders, current and former, the right to go to court on behalf of their company even if they are the minority."

Pevans moved to court seeking a raft of orders against Maina, the widow of former Makadara MP Dick Wathika, who owns a 21 per cent stake, and Ndung'u, who owns 17 per cent.

On January 10, Justice Alfred Mabeya issued a restraining order against the pair pending hearing of the case, granting Pevans 14 days to serve the expelled directors, which lapsed on January 24.

"That until then, a restraining order shall issue against the defendants," Justice Mabeya's order read in part.

"The order by Justice Mabeya makes no mention of SportPesa as appearing in the newspaper notices. The same people that transferred all assets of Pevans to Milestone Games Limited currently owned by Robert Macharia and Ronald Karauri are the same people who are purporting to expel Maina and Ndung'u," he added.

"If you fail to abide by the order of the court contempt of court proceedings seeking your committal to jail for six months will be instituted against you," Karauri had warned in the letter to Maina and Ndung'u.

Pevans has been embroiled in ownership wrangles amid alleged transfers of the SportPesa brand and its Paybill numbers 955100 and 9555700 as well as the short-code 79079. Pevans lost its SportPesa operating license in 2019 following claims by the Kenya Revenue Authority that it had defaulted Sh95 billion in taxes.

Karauri dismissed Ndung'us assertions, saying the latter cannot represent the SportPesa brand as he is not a part of Milestone and is barred by the court from representing Pevans.

"The injunction was extended. This story of transferring assets has a ruling that SportPesa brand was lawfully transferred. This is the guy who said we've not paid taxes, we are criminals... all lies and that's why he's been restrained from defamation. How was that acting in the best interests of Pevans? Now he is crying about being expelled from a company he has been destroying from day one," Karauri said.

Milestone, whose shareholders include Karauri and foreign nationals, has been operating SportPesa since 2020. The Betting and Licensing Board suspended the firm's licence, which was later reinstated by then High Court judge Pauline Nyamweya.

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