Profiles

Hosea Kiplagat: Debt haunts mobiliser who had Moi’s ear

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Until 17 years ago, Hosea Kiplagat was a household name in Kenya. FILE PHOTO | NMG

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Summary

  • He had Moi’s ear and wielded great influence on his political and business decisions.
  • To Moi, he was more than just a nephew.
  • Kiplagat’s prowess as a grassroots mobiliser was unrivalled, making him a huge asset in the political scene and Moi tapped his talent to run the show especially in his Rift Valley backyard.
  • HK made a name for himself as a political mobiliser who bankrolled President Moi’s campaigns for the Baringo Central seat that ensured a win in every election.

Until 17 years ago, Hosea Kiplagat was a household name in Kenya. He seldom missed public functions graced by the late former President Daniel Moi and as such his name was routinely mentioned during news bulletins on the State-run Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC) radio and television.

He had Moi’s ear and wielded great influence on his political and business decisions. To Moi, he was more than just a nephew. Kiplagat’s prowess as a grassroots mobiliser was unrivalled, making him a huge asset in the political scene and Moi tapped his talent to run the show especially in his Rift Valley backyard.

And with time, Kiplagat’s political and economic stature rose exponentially—a sharp contrast to his earlier days as a lowly remunerated prison warder.

But fast forward to today, the fortunes of the former Co-operative Bank executive chairman appear to have taken a dip. He is now fighting to save his multimillion-shilling empire from the auctioneer’s hammer over Sh375 million loans, taken separately by his companies in May 2018.

In an advertisement placed in the local dailies on Wednesday, Bank of India (BOI) instructed Garam Investments to sell several properties, including his Karen home, to recover the money that Mr Kiplagat guaranteed his two firms — Eldoret Concrete Poles Limited and Timber Treatment Limited.

The auction had been set for August 25 and August 28, but the reclusive Kiplagat obtained an order from the High Court stopping the auctioneer from proceeding with the sale.

Through lawyer Muga Apondi, Mr Kiplagat convinced Justice David Majanja to issue the order on August 3.

The auctioneer is targeting Mr Kiplagat’s Karen home, which sits on five acres and 11 other pieces of land in Eldoret, belonging to the two companies.

Mr Kiplagat, popularly known as ‘HK’ by his close associates had President Moi’s ear, giving him an odd characteristic of turning small-time lawyers, businesspeople as well as strangers into millionaires and powerful political operatives.

Opulence and power

During one of the presidential functions, Mr Kiplagat introduced a nondescript lawyer to President Moi, the late Makueni senator Mutula Kilonzo ushering the lawyer-politician to a life of opulence and power.

The Kanu operative handed over millions of shillings to discreet Nairobi businessman, Mike Maina, after the later agreed to have his company, Kitusuru Limited allocated 45.5 acres of land in Karura Forest at no cost that was later sold to NSSF at a handsome Sh295.5 million.

In the deal, Mr Maina acted for Mr Kiplagat and after the sale, Kitisuru Limited was dissolved and information of sharing of the proceeds erased.

In 1996, Mr Kiplagat was allocated 20 hectares of land and when EATEC land was put up for sale, he also bought a large chunk of the vast wattle plantation for a song where he proceeded to establish an electricity wood poles treatment plant.

While he started off his working life as a prison warder, his fortune changed after he quit to venture into business and his kinship with then President Moi saw him take up the role of managing the latter’s property.

Land deals

It was during his tenure at the helm of Co-op Bank that the listed lender was allowed to administer a multibillion-shilling coffee revival scheme dubbed the Second Coffee Improvement Project (SCIP) “without involvement of the Kenya Planters Cooperative Union.

Co-operative Bank was then issued with a coffee marketing licence allowing them to handle coffee farmers’ payments but no plans were made for recovery of monies advanced to farmers.

This saw SCIP suffer difficulties and Mr Kiplagat successfully lobbied the Moi-led government to write-off the loans amounting to Sh5.8 billion.

In 1994, Mr Kiplagat through his Sewenei Ltd was among 125 beneficiaries of the 990-acre ADC Kiswani farm which they bought at Sh20,000 per acre instead of the earlier agreed Sh250,000 to Sh300,000 per acre.

The government-sponsored livestock productions, seed maize, seed grass, national Boran stud, potato seed production multiplication and horticultural production projects all collapsed following the subdivision of the farm.

And in Mau, Mr Kiplagat defended his ownership of a 20-hectare piece saying despite it being part of the expansive Mau water tower, he had been legally given.

Political mobiliser

HK made a name for himself as a political mobiliser who bankrolled President Moi’s campaigns for the Baringo Central seat that ensured a win in every election.

In 2007, Mr Kiplagat unsuccessfully tried his hand in politics, losing the battle for Baringo Central parliamentary seat to former lands commissioner Sammy Mwaita .

Mr Kiplagat lives on the multimillion-shilling property in Nairobi’s Karen located along Quarry Lane off Bogani Road where an acre of vacant land averages Sh55 million.

His Karen property sits on a five-acre parcel, hosting a three bedroom (master en-suite) bungalow, an executive business office, a guest wing as well as an entertainment centre and a squash court.

Now he risks losing his Nairobi home as well as his electricity poles investments to auctioneers pursuing the BOI loan.

The home has a double-storeyed business room and guest entertainment block, a swimming pool (with fountain) and a baby pool, sauna and steam bath complex (with Jacuzzi), Office block complex, squash complex, three green houses and two beehives.