Whereabouts of tycoon Rai still unknown a day after kidnapping

When businessman Jaswant Rai welcomed former President Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto then Deputy President for the commissioning of Panpaper now called Rai Paper on Dec 15, 2016. [File, Standard]

The whereabouts of businessman Jaswant Singh Rai remained unknown last evening with his relatives, close associates and lawyers maintaining studious silence over the matter.

Even as the mystery about Rai’s abduction deepened with nobody willing to talk about the incident, President William Ruto in a thinly-veiled attack, cautioned the businessman against meddling in the Kenyan sugar sector.

“Who is Rai, he has no power in the sugar sector. We will work for the people of Kenya and not business people in the sugar sector,” said Dr Ruto while responding to a congregant who had shouted the businessman’s name.

The president was addressing an interdenominational service in Bungoma County when the unidentified resident interrupted his speech.

In Nairobi, Rai’s daughter made a report of a missing person at Kilimani Police Station on Saturday, a day after the billionaire was abducted along Wood Avenue Road at around 5pm.

Footage obtained from a CCTV camera from an adjacent building from the scene shows a man pulled out of a vehicle and forced into a waiting car. The abducted man is seen being forced into a double cabin pick up. From the footage, the victim’s car was intercepted at a junction in the estate.

Onlookers alerted police before Rai’s daughter arrived at the station to report the matter, which was recorded under OB 21/26/08/2023. The family believes Rai who was abducted by the unknown people said to have been armed.

And yesterday, one of his lawyers Martin Gitonga did not receive calls or respond to a text message inquiry about the incident. Another lawyer declined to be dragged into the matter saying “I am not the right person to comment on the issue.”

Sohan Sharma, chief executive officer, West Kenya Sugar Company, that is owned by the missing industrialist, who had initially promised to give an update on the incident, went quiet.

“I have no information at the moment but let me reach out to the family first,” said Sohan who did not pick subsequent calls from reporters.

Last month, the businessman was escorted from the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) to the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) headquarters over an alleged red alert issued against him.

While at the DCI, it is understood Rai was questioned about his involvement in Mumias Sugar Company where creditors are opposed to lease to Uganda-based sugar firm, Sarrai Group.

His lawyers, Gitonga and Paul Muite successfully filed an application on July 19, 2023 stopping investigation or arrest of the billionaire businessman who also has interests in sawmills (Timsales, Webuye Panpaper and Raiply), real estate (Tulip properties), soaps and edible oil (Menengai Oil Refinaries Limited). Apart from engaging in large-scale wheat farming and horticulture, Rai owns Kabras Sugar.

In his court application the businessman stated DCI was being used for ulterior motives claiming the main motivation was to harass him in a bid for him to drop his support of creditors against Mumias lease to Sarrai Group.

“The DCI has no justification for placing a red alert against me. I am not a criminal. I have not committed a crime. I verily believe that participating in the insolvency proceedings herein is not a criminal offence and as such no criminal culpability can arise from such participation,” argued Rai.

From the CCTV footage, at 5.42pm on Friday a man driving a Toyota Land Cruiser V8 is blocked by a double cabin car that had been trailing him. Two men, one brandishing a firearm, alight from the double cabin car before pulling out the man from the Land Cruiser.

They drag the man dressed in a white shirt and a black turban out and bundle him into the double cabin.

About 5.55pm a navy blue Subaru station wagon arrives. Two men suspected to be police officers jumped out of the car. The are seen walking towards Rai’s car abandoned in the middle of the road.

Another station wagon believed to belong to police arrives at around 6.48pm with a breakdown in tow. Rai’s Land Cruiser is towed away at 6.53pm.

Earlier, Kilimani Sub-County Police Commander Moss Ndiwa said investigations had commenced after the report of a missing person was made.

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