The fate of the Kisumu molasses plant hangs in the balance after a company moved to court to wind up Spectre International Ltd — part of the flagship business of opposition chief Raila Odinga.
The company is different from Mr Odinga’s East African Spectre, the liquefied petroleum gas cylinder manufacturer based in Nairobi.
A winding up petition is a legal way of enforcing payment of a debt, failure to which a company can be declared insolvent and its assets sold.
Dated February 2 and filed by Subira Shipping Contractors through Gikandi and Company advocates, the petition was presented to the High on March 30 and is the first indicator that all is not well at the molasses company — six years after Energem Resources, a Canadian company that bought a 55 per cent stake, went bankrupt.
The case was first mentioned on March 23 and the court granted the petitioners time to notify Spectre International of the notice by placing an advert in the dailies.
CONTROLLING 55 PER CENT STAKE
Controversy has stalked the family since it acquired the moribund Kenya Food and Chemical Corporation Ltd from the Moi government for Sh120 million.
That was the time Mr Odinga’s National Development Party was being cozy with Mr Moi and the ruling party Kanu.
The family later sold the controlling 55 per cent stake to a Canadian company for $2 million. The foreign firm’s chairman was Mr Brian Menell and its management included Mr Tony Texeira, as CEO, Sheikh Maktoum Juma al Maktoum (vice-chairman) and Mr Robert Rainey as chief financial officer.
Energem, which had changed its name from Diamondworks Inc, faced international criticism for hiring mercenaries to protect its mines in Sierra Leone and Angola during the civil war years. It was accused of engaging in the blood diamonds trade, a charge it refuted.
The accusation emanated from the company’s activities in Sierra Leone, where South African mercenaries seized some lucrative mines from rebel leader Foday Sankoh and handed them over to President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah.
GAMBLED ITS FORTUNE
The Kabbah administration then gave the mines to Branch Energy, which was 100 per cent owned by Diamondworks (later Energem).
But Energem’s fall came when Teixeira secretly gambled its fortune by attempting to set up a Formula One-like firm known as A1 Holdings.
This left most of the companies where it had a big stake, including the Kisumu molasses plant, in financial doldrums.
By the time he brought down the company, it owed more than $150 million to Standard Chartered Bank and the world’s leading jeweller, Tifanny and Co.
Last year, Mr Odinga denied reports that his company owed Mumias Sugar millions of shillings.
“Mumias supplied molasses to my company on a bank guarantee of Sh2 million. Where is the Sh300 million debt coming from?” he asked.