Inside Rigathi Gachagua’s Multi-Billion Tendering Complex

Assets Recovery Authority revealed that Gachagua received over Ksh12.5 billion through three accounts

Mr Rigathi Gachagua, the former MP for Mathira, is a new man. He is deputy president of Kenya, just a heartbeat away from the presidency. After winning the August 2022 elections as running mate of William Ruto, he has power in his hands and has been wielding it, if his tough talk is anything to go by.

But Rigathi Gachagua the deputy president is a world apart from the MP who was under siege in 2021, with detectives combing through his 49 registered companies which he used to trade with various government agencies in deals that saw him win tenders worth more than Ksh12 billion in just seven years. He arguably was the biggest tenderprenuer of the time.

Detectives described it as a “a well-knit complex scheme of money laundering”. Mr Gachagua had opened at least 33 bank accounts through which payments were made and many times the money hastily withdrawn. It is strong financial muscle that may have influenced his being picked as running mate for William Ruto ahead of the 2022 August general elections.

Mr Gachagua came into the spotlight after the Assets Recovery Agency (ARA) flagged Ksh12.5 billion deposited in his various bank accounts as proceeds of crime. In documents filed in court, ARA argued that Gachagua had received more than Ksh12.5 billion through three accounts in Rafiki Finance Bank, in seven years, payments that the agency believed were proceeds of corruption.

According to the agency, Mr Gachagua had made a total of Kshh7.3 billion withdrawals through bank statements in accounts that were left with a balance of Sh200 million. The agency told the court that there were no bank statements to show how the balance of Ksh5.1 billion was withdrawn from the fixed deposit account in what it termed “a complex scheme of money laundering”.

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ARA tabled in court documents indicating that one of Gachagua’s savings accounts had a balance of Ksh773, 228 after receiving Ksh5.8 billion and a fixed deposit account was left with Ksh35 million after receiving about Ksh877 million. A second fixed account had received Ksh5.87 billion of which Ksh705.1 million had been withdrawn, but with a Ksh165 million balance, leaving an unexplained Ksh5.1 billion.

Some of the companies that received hundreds of millions of shillings from the government, were either owned by Mr Gachagua himself and his family members, his close friends and relatives or proxies. Detective reports indicated Gachagua used multiple bank accounts to receive payments from various entities before the amounts could be transferred to other firms that he controlled.

Some of the companies had youths as directors, who after receiving payments for tenders reserved for the youth and women would transfer the money directly to accounts of companies owned by the MP. Interestingly, most of the money transfers ended up in a company known as Wamunyoro Investments Limited, that is jointly owned by Gachagua and his wife, Pastor Dorcas Wanjiku.

The companies won tenders, particularly road construction works in Nyeri county.

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Gachagua dismissed Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) and the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) and dared them to a court battle. Gachagua seems to have created strong links within the government that enabled him to receive more than Sh2.5 billion between 2015 and 2017.

For instance, during the period, the MP was paid more than Sh668 million from the National Irrigation Board (NIB); Sh502 million from the Kenya Informal Settlement Improvement Project; Sh339 million from the Ministry of Lands and Housing; and Sh195 million from the Directorate of Personnel Management MLG Kenya Municipal Programme.

Other payments included Ksh171 million from the State Department for Water; Ksh143 million (Lake Victoria Environment Management Project II); Ksh136 million (State Department for Irrigation); and Ksh105 million from the Ministry of Environment.

Web of tenders

According to investigators, Gachagua also did roaring business with other state agencies such as Athi Water Services Board Ksh58 million; State Department for Interior Sh43 million; KERRA Nyeri Ksh32 million; Ministry of Health Ksh32 million; Karatina University Ksh24 million; Ministry of Defense Ksh23 million; Lake Victoria Water Services Board Ksh18 million; State Department for Gender Ksh15 million; Tana Athi River Development Ksh12 million; State Department for Special Programmes Ksh11, among others.

But in his replying affidavit, the MP had told the court that he had moved Ksh200 million back and forth in his three accounts at Rafiki Micro Finance Bank over a period of seven years, giving the impression that the multiple entries were new deposits.

The MP questioned the records captured by ARA, arguing that the agency failed to appreciate how transaction accounts at Rafiki Micro Finance Bank were operated, and insisted that the Sh200 million had been the same fixed revolving fund rotating between three accounts for seven consecutive years.

The cases collapsed shortly after Mr Gachagua and President William Ruto assumed office after being sworn in as Deputy President and President, respectively. If he could move such a complex scheme of tendering as MP, it is anybody’s guess what he could do as Kenya’s second in command.

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