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HomeNewsThe curtain falls on alcohol tycoon Francis Kiriiro

The curtain falls on alcohol tycoon Francis Kiriiro

The curtain falls on alcohol tycoon Francis Kiriiro

With the burial of Tharaka Nithi billionaire Francis Kiambi Matanka Kiriiro on Friday, a chapter in the life of one of our times’ most successful businessmen was closed.

Under the soil sank a man who built an alcohol empire that manufactures and distributes some of the most well-known brands in the area.

Notably, Faxe products made in Denmark are solely distributed in Kenya by Patiala Distillers Kenya, a company Mr. Matanka founded in 2007 with his wife Mary Waigwe Muthoni.

The company, which is located on Nairobi’s Airport North Road, also produces Konyagi, Blue Ice Vodka, Gold Medal Brandy, Best Classic Gin, and Diamond Ice.

The more money he made from his businesses, the more he donated to charity. Numerous people have spoken of his generosity in tributes since his death, describing how he paid for the needy, bailed people out of difficult situations, and even bankrolled parties when he couldn’t attend.

KRA conflicts

And, while many of those with whom he has interacted praise him, state agencies such as the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) describe him in less flattering terms. According to a press release posted on the KRA website on August 27, 2021, he was involved in tax evasion by using fake excise duty stamps on his alcoholic beverages.

It goes on to say that he and his wife were both charged in court.

“If convicted, the accused persons face a fine of not more than Sh5 million or imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or both,” the taxman said in a statement.

A look at some of the court cases he’s been involved in reveals that he was a man determined to expand his empire no matter what.

In 2015, his company sued the Laikipia county government for preventing the sale of its products.

The case was won by the company.

In 2021, the company filed a lawsuit against KRA to challenge the closure of its manufacturing facilities, which was allegedly due to tax evasion.

The scheme, according to KRA, involved the use of duplicate or forged excise duty stamps.

However, his company would have the last laugh when the High Court in Nairobi ordered KRA to vacate the premises.

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“(KRA’s) search of the (company’s) premises turned up nothing.

Furthermore, KRA has made broad allegations against the company with no supporting evidence.

It would be a travesty of justice if the company’s manufacturing facilities remained closed as a result of an unjustified KRA raid “In August 2021, Justice James Makau ruled.

In 2011, the company was one of ten petitioners who filed a lawsuit to challenge certain sections of the Alcoholic Drinks Control Act, 2010, also known as the Mututho Law, which instituted radical changes in the sale of liquor, including the prohibition on the packaging of alcohol in sachets.

It resulted in the suspension of some sections of the act’s implementation.

Tharaka Nithi Governor Muthomi Njuki said Mr. Matanka’s companies were victims of “corporate wars” at his funeral.

“I urge President William Ruto’s government to support the deceased businesses from corporate wars so that his family can continue with the great work,” Mr. Njuki said.

Employment

Kithure Kindiki, the Interior Cabinet Secretary, was also present.

He stated that Mr. Matanka’s businesses had employed many youths, particularly those from the Tharaka constituency, and vowed to continue supporting the family so he to achieve his dreams.

Mr. Matanka’s eulogy in the funeral program included a detail that most eulogies overlook: the manner of death.

It stated unequivocally that he died of a heart attack in his sleep.

“An autopsy performed by the Chief Government Pathologist, Dr. Johansen Oduor, who was accompanied by five other Pathologists representing various interested parties, revealed that Francis died from myocardial infarction, or (a) cardiac arrest,” the report stated.

His wife told police shortly after his death that she had refused to guarantee him an Sh2 billion loan to start a business.

She claimed they slept in separate rooms and that she discovered his body on January 9 at 6 a.m.

The eulogy traced the life of a man who rose to prominence in business, politics, and philanthropy.

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He attempted to run for office twice but was unsuccessful both times.

The first time he ran for the Tharaka Member of Parliament seat, he was defeated by Mburi Muiru.

“He remained active in politics and was instrumental in the 2013 elections where he played the role of kingmaker shaping Tharaka Nithi politics and Kenya at large,” his eulogy read.

Kiriiro ran against Prof Kindiki in the senatorial election in 2017 but lost.

He did not run for any office in last year’s elections.

Mr. Matanka died 20 days shy of his 50th birthday, on January 29, 1973.

He was born into a poor family in the semi-arid sleepy Nkarini village of Tharaka constituency.

“Kiriiro enjoyed herding livestock, creating sculptures, carvings, modeling, and pottery, and accompanying his father when he harvested honey. He was a fantastic soccer player who once broke his leg while playing his favorite sport “His eulogy was read aloud.

Providing fast food

In 1992, he enrolled at the University of Nairobi, where he studied agriculture and served as a student leader.

Between 1998 and 2001, he worked on his master’s degree in agronomy.

He began his entrepreneurial career as an undergraduate UoN student, selling fast food and beverages on the Kabete campus.

Kiriiro was also interested in aviation, so he enrolled in a pilot training course in 2014, which he completed in 2016. He was a man with diverse business interests at the time.

“Enterprise bug”

The entrepreneurial spirit that drove him to sell at the canteen led him to become a distributor of Mastermind Tobacco Kenya and British American Tobacco products.

“He then joined Ederman Group as a Salesperson distributing alcoholic products within the country. Francis was given the title of Country Sales Manager. He then moved to Congo between 2005 and 2007, where he was involved in several successful business ventures, including the sale of alcoholic beverages and the importation of timber into Kenya. The Patiala Group of Companies was founded in 2007 by him and his wife, Mary Waigwe Muthoni, according to the eulogy.

His love of agriculture led him to value not only watermelons but also sorghum, and he encouraged locals to join him.

The watermelons earned him the nickname Matanka, which is what watermelons are called in Kitharaka, which he legally adopted in 2017.

“Sorghum and watermelons have now become the main cash crops,” according to the eulogy.

Mr. Matanka also appeared in one of the songs. Newton Karish, a veteran singer from neighboring Embu County, once wrote a song about his selflessness.

Mr. Matanka would invite residents to a feast every December, while traditional dancers entertained them for days on end.

Thousands of mourners who came to pay their respects have gone home, and the man now rests beneath the soils of a land he once wished to represent in Parliament; a land teeming with matanka and strewn with praises for him.

And, while the tax evasion case against him will be dropped, his companies will continue to fight in various courts.

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