Unlike other billionaires, Mr Rigathi Gachagua is not flamboyant. He doesn’t flash cash or throw parties like an oligarch. He neither smokes nor drinks. His ill-fitting suits are the target of social media trolls.
He wears no gold chains – nor spot expensive rings. Though not a bean-counter, he doesn’t display the ostentatious possessions which are the hallmark of big spenders.
While he recently admitted that he is worth Sh800 million, a good tidy sum for a tenderpreneur, investigators who have taken him to court would want him to account for close to Sh12.5 billion that passed through his accounts between 2013 and 2017.
More so, he is fighting in court for a Nairobi plot worth Sh1.5 billion which he claims ownership – meaning that the Mathira MP and Deputy President William Ruto’s running mate could be worth more than the self-declared Sh800 million.
How much Mr Gachagua is worth is only a matter of speculation – and the information filed in court only covers four years. More so, it doesn’t cover any of his other assets.
It is when you peep into these court records that you get the tiny picture of Mr Gachagua’s business dealings that have made him an influential politico within the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) and where he managed to upstage Prof Kithure Kindiki, the presumed favourite for running mate.
Insiders claim that Mr Gachagua’s deep pockets were louder than Prof Kindiki’s academic prowess – a move that almost rocked UDA and forced the Tharaka-Nithi senator to announce that he will quit politics after the August 9 General Election.
In politics, as many have found, money talks. But unlike in the days of President Daniel Moi who picked greenhorns — Prof George Saitoti and Dr Josephat Karanja — to deputise him, it appears that Dr Ruto’s search for a running mate looked for a Mr Moneybags. For a man who is serving his first term as an MP, Mr Gachagua is arguably one of the richest Mt Kenya MPs within UDA.
During his recent dealings, Mr Gachagua had targeted the health and agriculture sectors, which receives the bulk of funding from the national government. This is the playground where he has made billions of shillings and formed business networks which baffled detectives who looked at the cash trail that led to the blocking of his accounts.
Mr Gachagua runs his empire with his born-again pastor wife, Dorcas Wanjiku. Both are joint shareholders of 15 companies that have been the target of detectives and the Assets Recovery Agency. These are Wamunyoro Investments, Delta Merchants Limited, Heartland Supplies Limited, Calvary Creed International Limited, Ridor Properties Limited and Ridor Furniture Mart Limited. Others are Specific Supplies (K) Limited, Biovet (K) Ltd, Pioneer Medical (K) Limited, Technical Supplies and Services (K) Limited, Vetland Agencies Limited and Crystal Kenya Limited. They also own Elisons Hair and Beauty, whose two employees transact millions.
The total amount that has been frozen from his accounts is Sh202 million though the total amount paid to firms linked to Mr Gachagua amounts to Sh2.1 billion.
Where he doesn’t run the businesses directly, the documents indicate that his personal secretary, Julianne Jahenda Makaa, acts as a proxy. On paper, Ms Makaa is an employee of Crystal (K) Limited which is owned Mr Gachagua and his wife, Dorcas. But Ms Makaa is also a signatory to the account of Rapid Medical Supplies Limited, which is owned by David Nyangi Nguru and his wife Jedida Wangui. She is also a signatory to the bank account of Encartar Diagnostics Limited whose listed shareholders are Jimcarter Njagi and Godfrey Kirere.
To show that Mr Gachagua is connected to the hundreds of millions that passed through Encartar Diagnostics Limited’s accounts, the court records point to personal guarantees by Mr Gachagua and transfers from the accounts of Encartar Diagnostics Limited and Rapid Medical Supplies Limited to Mr Gachagua’s accounts.
In one instance, Encartar Diagnostics Limited received business worth Sh400 million from the counties of Nyeri, Bungoma, Kwale, Kisii, and Tharaka-Nithi. Some bank documents show that this company transferred Sh113 million to Mr Gachagua’s Savings Account at Rafiki DTM.
Rapid Medical Supplies, the company which has Mr Gachagua’s PA as a signatory — though not a director — had in one instance transferred Sh58.2 million to Mr Gachagua’s Rafiki DTM account. There are other “unspecified transfers” of Sh120 million to the same account, an indicator that there could be other unexplained sources of money.
Another proxy identified by investigators is Ms Anne Mukenyi who runs Jenne Enterprises and which has also had banking dealings with Mr Gachagua. Before she started Jenne Enterprises, Ms Mukenyo was an employee of Mr Gachagua’s hair salon, Ellisons Hair and Beauty, where she worked as a beautician before she was introduced into the world of tenders.
During the period that detectives targeted for investigation, Ms Mukenyi had received a total of Sh140 million from various national government ministries. Again, the common link was Mr Gachagua’s PA, Julianne Jahenda Makaa, who is a signatory to this account.
On October 7, 2020, the Assets Recovery Agency sought to have the funds held in these accounts declared as proceeds of crime, hence liable to forfeiture. The case is still pending.
Another beautician used as a proxy was Ms Julia Muthoni, a beautician at Ellisons Hair and Beauty who registered two companies: Klishine Limited and Asoma Enterprises.
Records indicate that there were cash flows to Mr Gachagua’s Wamunyoro Investments from Asoma Enterprises. Some of this money came from CDF Mathira, Nyeri County, Kenya Rural Roads Authority-Nyeri and National Irrigation Board.
Before she joined Nr Gachagua’s network of tenders, Ms Julianne Jahenda Makaa was employed as an M-Pesa attendant in Buruburu. But her fortunes changed after she was employed as Mr Gachagua’s personal assistant. Here, she also registered her own Skytop Agencies where she is the sole director. Operating from Mr Gachagua’s Liason House office — together with the other former beautician Julia Muthoni —Ms Makaa’s company is shown to have paid millions of shillings to Wamunyoro Investment. She is also a signatory of Jeen Enterprises, Rapid Medical Supplies and Encarter Diagnostic Limited, which had transactions of Sh254 million.
The amount of cash withdrawals by Ms Makaa and Mr Gachagua from three accounts held at Absa, Equity and Rafiki DTM is Sh10 million, Sh86 million and Sh33 million respectfully.
Ms Makaa’s Skytop Agencies has been prolific in winning tenders from government ministries which includes Lands (Sh82 million), National Irrigation (Sh51 million) and has been the conduit of “loans” (Sh234 million).
Some of the money is later paid to “Rigathi Gachagua and relatives” (Sh36 million) or bank cash withdrawals and through M-Pesa (Sh64 million) – an indicator of how money flows within the networks.
In Nyeri County, during the governorship of Mr Gachagua’s brother, the auditor-general found that Encartar Diagnostics Limited was once awarded a Sh12 million tender to install a dialysis machine. This machine later broke down after installation. The company was also awarded another Sh123 million tender in Bungoma for the supply of various medical equipment. While the MP does not own the company, the company transferred the bulk of the money, first paid to Rafiki Micro Finance Account, to Mr Gachagua’s personal account in the same institution.
Mr Gachagua has another company, Technical Supplies & Services (K) Ltd, which has been doing business with the national government. The money is shown to flow directly to Wamunyoro Investments.
Another element of Mr Gachagua’s wealth is that he has not invested in businesses that have huge number of workers. Instead, some of the companies are briefcase companies – and as ARA seemed to suggest, some of the money was disguised as loans to conceal the funds.
During the recent presidential running mates debate, Mr Gachagua argued that the high amount of cash was exaggerated by detectives – since they could not do proper maths. Some of the movements, he said, were inter-company transfers.
Mr Gachagua has previously explained that payments paid to his proxies for tenders reserved for the youth and which were later transferred to his accounts was because he had loaned them money.
For more than a decade, Mr Gachagua has been in the business world and with his network of companies, he seems to have managed to penetrate various county and national government institutions for business.
He has said that if their party wins, he will have the cases concluded to his favour and will manage to build a house in Kieni, where he has another farm.