Deportation of gambling lords irks SportPesa

Friday, December 18th, 2020 00:00 |
Fred Matiangí
Interior CS Fred Matiang'i.

The government yesterday ordered the deportation of 14 foreigners involved in illegal gambling, leading to a fresh war of words between it and betting firm, SportsPesa.

The firm is accusing the State of violating a court order.

On Wednesday, officials from government multi-agencies accompanied by heavily armed police officers raided SportPesa offices on Valley Road, Nairobi, and arrested some of the foreigners, believed to be mostly from Eastern Europe.

The officials also raided the company’s other offices in Westlands and Hurlingham where they made further arrests.

Besides being involved in illegal gambling activities, sources at the Office of the President said the foreigners also operated in the country without work permits.

The sources said some of the foreigners hailed from Bulgaria, Italy, Serbia and Hungary.

Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i approved the deportation order for the foreigners who were scheduled to leave the country last evening.

Gambling activities

“The crackdown was undertaken by a government multi-agency team that is cracking down on illegal gambling activities and foreigners working in the country without work permits,” Peter Mbugi, the chief executive of Betting and Licensing Control Board.

Mbugi, however, clarified that his organisation was not involved in the operation.

The raid comes about two weeks after Matiang’i maintained the government would not relent on non-compliant betting and gaming firms, insisting that it would not allow money laundering and tax evaders to ruin the youth.

And yesterday, SportPesa was breathing fire as it accused the government of blatantly disregarding and violating court orders issued by the High Court in a judicial review miscellaneous application number E061 of 2020.

SportPesa lawyer, Robert Macharia termed the raid as illegal and intimidation of its management, employees and customers.

“Regrettably, the said illegal conduct by BCLB in conjunction with other parties, falls into a pattern of intimidation and harassment targeted at Milestone Games Limited, its management, employees and customers,” the company said through Macharia.

Macharia assured SportPesa customers and partners that the betting platform remained operational pursuant to the court order, which remains in force until January 25, 2021 when the matter comes up for hearing in court.

Justice Pauline Nyamweya had on December 3, 2020 issued orders restraining BCLB from interfering with the operations and business of Milestone Games Limited, the current operator of SportPesa gaming platform. 

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