Deported Rubis Energy Kenya CEO Jean-Christian Bergeron made a quiet return to Kenya and resumed his executive role at the leading oil marketer weeks after the swearing-in of President William Ruto.
Sources told the Business Daily that Mr Bergeron, popular as JPB in the local oil industry, jetted back to Nairobi in late October, ending his forced six-month absence from the country.
The State Directorate of Immigration revoked Mr Bergeron’s work permit and ordered him to leave the country immediately on the night of April 14 following weeks of fuel shortages that had caused a public outcry.
The Rubis Kenya CEO has maintained a low profile since returning, infrequently visiting the firm’s headquarters in Nairobi while keeping off public engagements hosted by the industry lobby, the Petroleum Institute of East Africa (PIEA), said the sources.
“I can confirm that Mr Bergeron is in the country. My job is to regulate companies and not individuals,” Epra Director-General Daniel Kiptoo told the Business Daily on Monday.
The deportation of Mr Bergeron -- who has led the company for four years -- followed a fuel crisis that led to long queues at service stations and a spike in petrol and diesel prices, triggering a government clampdown.
The move to send the Frenchman parking was linked to the company’s involvement in selling more petroleum products in the neighbouring countries, which the government had blamed for the shortage.
Official data showed that leading oil marketers reduced their fuel allocations for Kenya in favour of the regional market where they could make more money.
The oil marketer goaded the State over its claims of deporting Mr Bergeron to France, saying the CEO had travelled to Paris to brief the head office over Kenya’s fuel crisis.
“JPB has been in the country but he is working away from the media limelight. He jetted back into the country in October last year,” said a source familiar with ongoings at Rubis Kenya.
His return came weeks after the swearing-in of Dr Ruto on September 13, taking the helm a week after the country’s Supreme Court threw out petitions challenging his victory.
Dr Ruto replaced Uhuru Kenyatta and his administration has since reversed a number of executive orders issued by the previous government.
Mr Bergeron was the biggest casualty of a probe of 10 CEOs of oil marketing firms who risked two years in jail or fines of up to Sh2 million over the fuel crisis.
Their firms were blamed for breaching a regulation that demands they keep a minimum level of diesel and petrol stocks, causing the countrywide fuel shortage.
The 10 firms included Vivo Energy, Total Energies, OLA Energy, Gapco, Hass Petroleum, Petro Oil, Galana Oil and Lake Oil Petroleum.
Oil marketers are under the law required to maintain minimum stocks of petrol and diesel to last 20 days and 25 days respectively to cushion the country from supply disruptions.
The State termed their actions economic sabotage, which is a capital offence that carries life imprisonment.
The fines and jail terms linked to stocks are contained in the Energy (Minimum Operational Stock) Regulations, 2008 and underlined the government’s resolve to end the fuel shortage that had persisted for three weeks.
Rubis Energy Kenya is owned by Rubis Energie, a subsidiary of the Rubis Group, which is listed on the Paris Stock Exchange, following the full acquisition of both KenolKobil and Gulf Energy Holdings in 2019.
Rubis controls 8.6 percent of the local market, making it the third-biggest marketer after TotalEnergies and Vivo Energies.
Mr Bergeron’s deportation risked triggering a diplomatic spat with France, which wants to deepen its economic ties with Anglophone East Africa.
But the French have small leverage over Kenya relative to other European allies, including Britain, and nations like China or the US.
French businesses account for less than 1.5 percent of Kenya’s global trade.