Mobitelea Probe Hits Brick Wall in Kenya

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

Hopes of tracing the true owners of Mobitelea were dashed when the British Government said the case was too difficult to investigate. The British admitted that investigations into dealings between Vodafone UK and Mobitelea, a shadowy firm with a stake in Safaricom Kenya, had hit a brick wall. The Nairobi gossip mill credits ownership of the shares to a Kenyan politician.

The Serious Fraud Office (SFO), which tried to carry out an investigation, said hopes of unearthing any dealings between Vodafone UK and Mobitelea were remote. The office also said that it would be a waste of resources to allocate funds for such a mission.

SFO press and publicity officer Jina Roe told the Nation: "In light of the age of the allegations and the surrounding circumstances, the case would inevitably entail a lengthy investigation whose prospects of success are uncertain." Ms Roe spoke just days after it was revealed that Mobitelea Ventures will pocket about Sh100 million after Safaricom's sterling performance for the year ending March 31, this year.

She said that the SFO had examined the matter and visited Kenya where its officers met members of the Public Investments Committee, which was at the time investigating the ownership of Safaricom.

And the SFO director at the time, Robert Wardle, who had the task of allocating resources, decided two months ago against the inquiry. "The director (at that time, Robert Wardle) had the task of allocating resources, taking into account the prospects of success against the demands on resources. It is with some difficulty that he decided that the SFO will not adopt this enquiry for investigation," she said.

Roe said the SFO was alerted of the suspected shady dealings between Vodafone and Mobitelea in January 2007 by the Sustainable Development and Business Group of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Mobitelea, which holds a 12.5 per cent stake in Vodafone Kenya, owns five per cent of Safaricom through its Vodafone Kenya stake. Mobitelea, registered in Guernsey on June 18, 1999, according to Vodafone, was allowed to invest in Safaricom because of its valued advice. Mobitelea's owners are hidden behind two nominee firms, Guernsey-registered Mercator Nominees Ltd and Mercator Trustees Ltd. The directors are named as Anson Ltd and Cabot Ltd, based in Anguilla and Antigua.

The Nation