Rai Billionaires: Family Eyeing Mumias Sugar Tied to the High and Mighty

Jaswant Rai (centre) takes former President Uhuru Kenyatta round the Rai Paper in Webuye, Bungoma County in 2016.

The wealthy Rai family is once again in the limelight over the acquisition of Mumias Sugar Company. The family's bid for a takeover of the crippled Western Kenya firm has, however, not been disclosed to the public.

Tarlochan Singh Rai, the family patriarch built a multi-billion empire with the help of his wife Sarjit, and their four sons.

The couples' sons Jaswant, Jasbir, Tejveer and Onkar are actively involved in managing the vast family business.

Jaswant chairs the Rai Group and was once named a board member of the Kenya Forest Service Group. Tejveer is the Managing Director of West Kenya Sugar Company - the company that owns Kabras Sugar.

A photo of Mumias Sugar Company in Kakamega County.
Boni Khalwale

Rai family has been linked to the high and mighty in Kenya after several of their tenders, purchase of troubled government firms and supply of commodities were put in the spotlight. 

It holds 45 percent shares in the sugar industry and owns the West Kenya Sugar Company, Olepito Sugar and Sukari Industries- which run Kabras Sugar, Ndhiwa Sugar. 

In Uganda, it's among the largest millers through  Kinyara Sugar Works, besides having interests in edible oils, fats and soaps (Menengai Oil Refineries), wheat farming, horticulture and real estate (Tulip Properties)  and sawmilling (Timsales - also associated with Kenyatta family).

It also owns RaiPly, makers of chipboards, ceilings, block boards, parquet and wooden tiles and polythene bags for sugar companies. It also processes the same in Uganda, Tanzania and Malawi - where it’s among the biggest wood processors.

In 2016, they purchased the Pan Paper Mills in Webuye for Ksh900 million, The company was worth Ksh18 billion but was indebted to the tune of Ksh10 billion by the time it was placed under receivership in 2009.

In May 2018, the Rais were linked to a contraband sugar that had been allegedly imported to the country without following due process. Former Majority leader, Aden Duale claimed that the Rai family were among those who imported the illegal sugar and not his (Duale's) family as accused.

"The culprit is walking free and we want to know who is protecting him. The same guy is the biggest logger in the country and he has even been made a board member of the Kenya Forest Service board, it's ridiculous! When you hear PanPaper, you know who the owner is," Duale stated.

Tejreev Rai admitted that the company imported huge quantities of sugar but reiterated that theirs was entirely safe for human consumption. He further distanced the family from the sugar scandal.

Rai family members address the media at a past event

One year later in May 2019, a High Court ordered former President Daniel arap Moi and the Rai family-owned Rai Plywood to pay ex-Chief Noah Chelugui’s family Ksh1 billion for illegally taking over his land.

Moi was accused of grabbing the Cheluguis’ 53-acre land in Eldoret on September 21, 1983, before selling the prime property to the Jaswant Rai family. 

The family defended the company involved and told the High Court it bought the land from Moi in 2007 after doing in-depth research which detailed that no one other than Moi owned the land. The case has dragged in court to date.

Rai family was also sued for investing its money in a local bank and Timsales Limited - two companies associated with the Kenyatta family

Away from their high stakes business deals, the Rais are avid motorcar rallying enthusiasts. 

Celebrated rally drivers in the car include Tajveer Rai, Onkar Singh Rai, Amaanraj Rai, among others. 

In 2018, Amanraj was racing in a Ford Fiesta R5, a high performing rally car that costs about Ksh30 million, when it crashed in Machakos. He, however, escaped unhurt. 

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