Police question city millionaire over Jacob Juma death
Police have interviewed shadowy millionaire and the ultimate “tenderpreneur”, Mr Joseph “Jimmy” Wanjigi, over the death of businessman and Twitter activist Jacob Juma.
The two were fast friends and business associates who seem to have launched a campaign against the type of shady government deals where they made their money.
The publicity-shy Mr Wanjigi is among 28 people — mainly friends and family — who have been questioned over the death of Juma, who was found dead in his car three weeks ago.
Mr Wanjigi is among prominent business people often mentioned in reports as having benefited from irregular deals and corruption in big government contracts.
Known as James Bond in social, political and business circles because of his shadowy but influential profile, he has achieved the significant feat of staying off the limelight — and the arms of the law — even though his business operations, including Anglo-Leasing-type contracting, are reputed to be every bit as controversial as Juma’s.
Juma’s murder appears to have hit Mr Wanjigi hard, causing him to uncharacteristically come out in the open, including serving as a pall bearer at his friend’s funeral.
The other time he came out in the public was after the death of another friend and ally, Internal Security minister George Saitoti, who died in a 2012 plane crash.
Mr Wanjigi, son of former Kamukunji MP Maina Wanjigi, was among the first people to view Juma’s body at the Lee Funeral Home the morning after Juma’s murder and also two days later when he went back to witness the autopsy.
At the memorial service, Mr Wanjigi was among pall bearers at the All Saints Cathedral, where he also served as the master of ceremonies.
Other than being President Uhuru Kenyatta’s schoolmate at the prestigious St Mary’s School in Nairobi, the then school of choice for the children of prominent Kenyans, no other schooling achievements are known about Mr Wanjigi.
He is said to shun public places and carries drinks to enjoy at home. Despite being one of the richest Kenyans, Mr Wanjigi avoids appearing on rich lists and the subsequent glare of publicity that comes with appearing in wealth rankings.
The popular belief, certainly among associates, is that Mr Wanjigi was the man who bank-rolled the largely broke Juma’s campaign against Deputy President William Ruto and Jubilee.
Mr Wanjigi was influential in the Kibaki administration through allies and business associates such as Prof Saitoti.
He was also close to Jubilee, whom he is reported to have enthusiastically supported during the campaigns. However, relations between them cooled.
Friends say Juma decided to wage a war against the government after it cancelled his mining licences, particularly one concession which is said to contain untold riches in rare earth minerals.
The two businessmen are said to have entered into a marriage of convenience against the government.
“Juma was broke most of the times since the government had cracked down on his businesses and he was struggling with court cases. Whereas he had the will to publicly wage his war, he didn’t have the resources. This is where Wanjigi came in,” an associate of the two who requested not to be named said.
Mr Wanjigi, with bucketloads of money, is said to have sourced for information on government scandals, which Juma then released to the public.
“Mr Wanjigi is said to be in a position to exert significant influence on national politics. During the Kibaki regime, Wanjigi had unusual clout in government, which he still retains. He has his people virtually in every important government department. He also has the resources to acquire any information from those offices,” said the source.
Mr Wanjigi’s influence is well-chronicled. He was one of the influential businessmen in the Kibaki era and he employed his political networks to help mobilise and finance Jubilee’s 2013 campaigns.
As part of his connection to power, he has been mentioned as having influenced or tendered for multi-billion government projects, ranging from the Lamu project, the standard gauge railway and the second berth at the port of Mombasa.
Unlike Juma, who courted publicity, Mr Wanjigi is said to have preferred to be in the background, although he employed his resources in the campaign against Jubilee.
He first rose to public scrutiny when he was mentioned in leaked US cables by the whistleblower website, WikiLeaks, which connected him to government tenders worth billions of shillings going back to 2002, when Mr Mwai Kibaki won the presidency.
The Kibaki win propelled Mr Wanjigi to the national limelight, with the US Cables describing him as “a relative newcomer to high-level graft”.
Mr John Githongo, then President Kibaki’s anti-corruption adviser, named Mr Wanjigi in his dossier on government corruption as part of “a small clique of private sector deal-makers working together with an equally small cadre of senior government conspirators”.
The Githongo dossier named former minister Chris Murungaru, State House operative Alfred Getonga, and businessmen Anura Perera, Deepak Kamani and Wanjigi in connection with contracts that were later investigated and cancelled for corruption.