Nairobi - Justice in Kenya has been a very “expensive affair” for Mr Michael Ezra Mulyoowa for the past two and a half years.
The 39 year-old who gained international attention in 2007 for bidding £60 million (about Shs180 billion)to buy English Football Club Leeds United has been going to Kenya not for business deals but for criminal charges relating to obtaining credit by false pretence and issuing bad cheques.
Sources close to the Ezra who once splashed $3 million to journalists as a show of his wealth said he spends an average of Shs25 million each time he comes to Kenya. “Mr Mulyoowa flies in his private jet irrespective of which part of the world he is just to come for the trials. He has never missed a court session even if it is just a mention or when the magistrate is not there and the case is adjourned,” said the source who requested not to be named.
Never mind that the amounts was accused of defrauding are way too little compared to his estimated riches and which if he chose, he could have settled out of court. It was reported in the Financial Times last year that Mr Mulyoowa’s investments in Dubai alone stood at $1.5 billion.
His lawyer Eric Mutua said that Mr Mulyoowa respects the justice system so much and despite the cases dragging on for years, he has never missed a session or requested him to seek for adjournment due to engagements elsewhere. “My client has been dutifully attending the sessions without failure. Sometimes we don’t meet prior to the hearing and get worried that he will not turn up only to meet him in the courtroom,” said Mutua.
Mr Mulyoowa was facing three different criminal trials, two of which have been concluded and he has been acquitted for lack of evidence. In Friday’s acquittal, Mr Mulyoowa was charged with two counts of obtaining goods worth Shs46 million by false pretence and for issuing a bad cheque valued at the same amount.
However, senior principal magistrate Timothy Okelo ruled that the prosecution had not established the claims and acquitted the billionaire for lack of evidence. The sources said Mr Mulyoowa believes that the decision to charge him were part of extortionist bid and that is part of the reasons he refused to settle the matter out of court despite being offered the chance by the complainants.
“Mr Mulyoowa is fighting the legal battles because he believes the complainants were out to blackmail him and benefit from his wealth. He will never run away and promised to come to Kenya irrespective of how much it costs until the truth is found out,” said the source.
Apparently, Mr Muyoowa is fighting a legal battle where his legal fees alone would have been enough to settle some of the money he is accused of obtaining fraudulently.
Sources told the Daily Nation, Sunday Monitor’s sister paper, that the tycoon’s interest is to see justice done and not pay what he believes are false accusations. It remains to be seen why a man, who was last year reported to have investment worth over $1.5 billion in Dubai, chose to fight a case he could have easily settled. According to the sources, Mr Mulyoowa always puts up in upmarket five star hotels whenever he is in Kenya and has never shied away from spending big.
It is rumoured that he was the first Ugandan to own a Lamborghini car in 2003 and the only other person to have been voted as man-of-the-year by Ugandans in 2006. The only other person who has been voted by Ugandans ahead of President Museveni is US President Barack Obama.
Apart from his lavish lifestyle, the tycoon is also known to have big heart in supporting sporting activities in Uganda.
He established the Ezra Boxing Board (EBB) which has seen amateur boxers represent Uganda in the Olympics and in 2007 paid the Uganda National Football Team $100,000 (about Shs245 million) for beating Niger in a World Cup qualifier. “That is why he has been a target of many conmen around the world for his magnanimity. He will not however run away from justice and dutifully adheres to court conditions,” said the source.
Pundits claim that it is not possible to estimate how much Mr Mulyoowa is worth and asking him about his tens of billions is like chasing a blue moon. His known investment company, Sunspace International, trades in international money and food markets, high-end real estate and sports developments.