A new rule on dual citizenship by the European Union (EU) may soon leave ‘fugitive’ Kenyan billionaire, Humphrey Kariuki, with no other option but to return home and face the music.
The Kenyan billionaire who owns Africa Spirits and Wines of the World appeared to have fled Kenya with his wife, Stella Nasike, and found refuge in Cyprus while being probed for tax evasion to the tune of KES 41 Bn (USD 410 Mn).
But Kariuki, who holds dual citizenship from Cyprus, may soon have nowhere to run to after Cyprus with pressure from European Union decided to reconsider his Cypriot passport.
Kariuki was in the news for the wrong reasons early this year after the Director of Criminal Investigations, George Kinoti, led detectives in a major raid at his factories located in Thika where over a million bottles of assorted alcoholic drinks and 24,000 counterfeit excise stamps were seized.
However, when a warrant of arrest against him was issued, Kariuki was nowhere to be seen forcing Kinoti to seek Interpol’s help in arresting the billionaire businessman who was out of the country at the time. It later came to the fore, albeit shockingly, that the wanted man also had Cypriot citizenship.
With the Cypriot citizenship, Kariuki was pretty much untouchable. And that’s because a Cypriot passport enables one to do business throughout the European Union since Cyprus is a member.
However, Cyprus’ investor citizenship come under scrutiny of late, drawing criticism from other EU member countries and Transparency International (TI).
The groups fear that the country’s investor citizenship policies could turn it into a “gateway to Europe for corrupt people and money laundering”, as contained in TI’s August report.
Cyprus has been under pressure from the EU to tighten entry of foreigners into the scheme. And it looks like Cyprus is finally bowing to pressure.
As gathered by The Politis, The Kenyan billionaire and his spouse are among 26 investors identified by Cypriot authorities who may lose their Cypriot passports due to strict citizenship rules introduced by the European tax haven as part of a review of the 2013 policy that granted a passport to anybody who invested at least USD 2.2 Mn in the local economy.
According to various news agencies from Cyprus, the crackdown could be effected as soon as the end of this month, leaving Kariuki — who has since 2016 had dual citizenship — to only have a Kenyan passport.
Joining Kariuki on the list of prominent individuals that are soon to be ousted from their haven in Cyprus are Chinese national Zhang Shumin (reportedly linked to a gold scam), and Olag Deripaska (a Russian billionaire with ties to the Kremlin who was once Russia’s richest man).
Featured Image Courtesy: KathimeriniCyprus