Police deny holding sugar billionaire Jaswant Singh Rai

Sugar billionaire, Jaswant Singh Rai. FILE PHOTO | NMG

The mystery surrounding the daylight abduction of sugar billionaire Jaswant Singh Rai has taken a new turn after police denied reports linking them to the Friday incident.

The businessman, who is also the chairman of Kabras Sugar, went missing after his Toyota LC300 was ambushed at the junction of Wood Avenue in Kilimani, opposite Kenwood Apartments, at around 4pm by persons driving a grey double-cab pick-up.

One of the lawyers representing the family, Senior Counsel Kioko Kilukumi, said the family hadn't had any contact with Mr Rai as of Sunday and that he couldn't be reached by phone.

The Director of Criminal Investigations (DCI), Amin Mohamed, said that Mr Rai was not being held by his officers.

"We are not holding him. We do not have a detention facility, but the matter is under investigation," Mr Amin said.

CCTV footage of the abduction shows four men getting out of the pick-up and forcibly pulling the occupants of the billionaire's car into their vehicle before speeding off towards Galana Road.

Mr Rai's vehicle is then left idling on the road. Later, officers from Kilimani Police Station were seen towing it to the station, unoccupied and with only a minor scratch on the front right side where the pick-up had made contact. A report on the vehicle was made under OB number 40/25/8/2023.

Kilimani Sub County Police Commander Moss Ndiwa said the following day that a woman who identified herself as Mr Rai's daughter, accompanied by a lawyer, went to the station to file a missing person's report. The report was registered under OB number 21/26/08/2023.

"She also confirmed that the vehicle towed to the station was his," Mr Ndiwa added.

The family has since shared the CCTV footage of the incident, which led them to conclude that Mr Rai had been kidnapped. But Mr Ndiwa said that they could not confirm that this was indeed a case of kidnapping.

Some of Mr Rai's lawyers have speculated that the 'abduction' has something to do with the ongoing battle over the receivership of Mumias Sugar Company, which saw him arrested by detectives from the Economic Crimes Unit, who are investigating a Treasury report alleging an attempt by some individuals and companies to defraud the firm.

In his application, Mr Rai said he was escorted from the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) to the DCI offices on an alleged red alert against him and was subsequently questioned about his involvement in Mumias.

"This marks the unfortunate return of extrajudicial methods that the new government promised to end. The IG owes Kenyans an explanation. We demand the immediate and safe return of Mr Rai," said Eric Theuri, the president of the Law Society of Kenya.

The billionaire has since been granted anticipatory bail to prevent the police from arresting him when the case comes up for hearing on October 6.

Several sources have linked the kidnapping to a business rivalry in the sugar industry, which also involves senior government officials.

The missing Rai is a member of the Rai family, one of the country's richest families, which controls major stakes in the edible oil and sugar industries, controlling more than half of the country's sugar market.

In 2021, the group bid for the state-owned Mumias Sugar Company through its Ugandan subsidiary, the Sarrai Group.

The family also has interests in property, agriculture and cement.

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