Humphrey Kariuki: Story of Billionaire Wanted for Selling Substandard Alcohol

  • The recently raided Africa Spirit Limited is only a small part of Humphrey Kariuki’s multi-billion empire under the name Janus Continental Group, a holding company.

    Kariuki, who is a lover of exotic animals and shies away from publicity, came from a humble background. He hails from Nyeri and is a former employee of the Central Bank of Kenya.

    Among other investments, Janus company owns a five-star hotel, the luxurious Mt Kenya Safari Club, a retreat to famous Hollywood stars such as William Holden.

    Kariuki poses with a wild animal in a reserve he owns

    In an interview with Forbes Magazine in 2017, he indicated, “I was at the bottom of the ladder. I always tell people that in life you need to start from the bottom; the only place where you start at the top is when you’re digging a well. So I started as a clerk, and then went on to work in various other departments in the bank.”

    It was from the income from his employment at Central Bank, beginning while he was only 19 years old, that Kariuki ventured into business. He began by importing cars starting off with one owned by his elder sister, who resided in the UK.

    He indicated, “I was able to sell (the car) at double the price my sister was asking for. I gave my sister her money and kept the rest for myself. I was amazed, and I wondered: ‘Is this how easy it is to make money?”

    Kariuki would later invest in establishing the well-known Green Corner Restaurant at Nairobi’s Tumaini House, behind Kencom House, where he was the manager.

    Green Corner soon became a popular joint among multiparty crusaders during the Moi era; the likes of Raila Odinga, Paul Muite, Gitobu Imanyara, and Prof Peter Anyang’ Nyong’o. Some other common faces to the place included John Harun Mwau and Ooko Ombaka.

    Kariuki also had another restaurant beside Green Corner, which he named Twigs. It was next door to Green Corner but served the higher end of clients.

    His big break in business came when he was introduced to South Sudan wheeler-dealers and he managed to strike multimillion-dollar oil and construction deals.

    He previously indicated to Forbes, “The margins were astronomical. The volumes weren’t much, but the margins were crazy.”

    With the proceeds he got from the business, Kariuki was able to build the Hub shopping mall in Karen and also bought Fairmont Mt Kenya Safari Club in Nanyuki.

    Kariuki ventured into the Wines and Spirits business while he was in his late 20s. He engaged in the business of distributorship of the alcohol products through Wines of the World Limited as the distributor for Jack Daniels, Bacardi and the Edrington Group with premium brands that included The Macallan, The Famous Grouse, and Brugal rum.

    In 2002, he began establishing his factory of the Blue Moon Vodka brand, The premise raided by the authorities on Friday.

    Inspector General Joseph Boinnet, Director of Criminal Investigations George Kinoti, together KRA officials, raided the tycoon’s Africa Spirit Limited brewery in Thika town and made unbelievable discoveries.

    They seized fake and counterfeit products worth Ksh1.2 billion including an estimated 21 million counterfeit excise stamps and 312,000 liters of illicit alcohol products.

    The brewery has allegedly been manufacturing a large consignment of both counterfeit excise stamps and illicit alcohol. As an outcome, Mr Kariuki is wanted for tax evasion amounting to billions of shillings.

    Though Kariuki seems to have worked his way up, Kenyans have continued to poke holes in the story of his rise from grass to grace especially after the raid.

    Inspector General Boinnet addressing the press after the raid on Kariuki's Brewery in Thika