In February 2015, Barry Ndengeyingoma arrived in Nairobi in style. He had two cars that were real head-turners: A lime-green lowride Lamborghini and a red Ferrari.
Barry is a Rwandan national who owns B Club, which a week ago was the centre of drama when a disc jockey was controversially shot by Embakasi East MP Babu Owino. The MP has been charged with the attempted murder of Felix Orinda aka DJ Evolve.
When he arrived, Nairobians immediately noticed. The cars cost about Sh20 million each, before stamp duty. Twitter lit up. For days, the cars would be photographed countless times by anyone who saw them in traffic and uploaded to the internet, sparking endless banter about who owns them.
The answer to this question would be partly answered in May 2016, when B Club opened its doors on the first floor of Galana Plaza in Kilimani, Nairobi.
Styled as a club that is part of an international franchise for the rich and famous, B Club was an instant hit.
At its parking lot, the lime-green Lamborghini and red Ferrari were at the head of a collection of expensive cars, including a stretch Lincoln Limousine and a Rolls Royce Phantom for transporting revellers who booked in advance.
Its opening night was an affair for Nairobi’s elite: politicians, rich businessmen and socialites. A receipt was even circulated on the internet showing how someone spent Sh1.16 million that day on 58 bottles of Moet Rose champagne – at Sh20,000 each.
The magic worked and B Club punched its way to the top. Soon, international celebrities and children of the very rich thronged the club. A son of a prominent political leader was once spotted shooting notes from the club’s money gun.
For the three years it has been in operation, B Club’s fame has soared but so has controversy around it. In September last year, a court ordered the club shut due to a suit filed by the residents of Kilimani over noise pollution.
On the source of his wealth, Barry Ndengeyingoma alias Ndegeye told local media three years ago that he started by selling second-hand clothes in his home country, Rwanda.
“I started as a teenager making a few coins as a fashion retailer buying, customising and selling second-hand clothes. I was also an artistes’ designer,” he said.
He said the turning point was the 1994 Rwanda Genocide against the Tutsi, which forced him to flee and seek refuge in Kenya before moving to Brussels, Belgium. While in Brussels he said he got into the entertainment business and traded in gold and diamonds.
“We managed to open high-end clubs such as Billion Club in Belgium that has a capacity of 3,000 people, Afrodiziac Club (also in Belgium) that accommodates 1,000 people, B Club Kigali and B Club, which are currently doing well,” he said.
But a report by the Committee for the Respect of Human Rights and Democracy in Rwanda cites a Barry Ndengeyingoma alias Ndegeye as one of the people who benefitted from the genocide and relocated to Nairobi and later gained refugee status in Belgium.
“Reputed to have been enriched by looting and spoliations by his criminal group he arrived in Belgium in February of March 1996 from Nairobi. He obtained refugee status in March 1997,” said a report by the Committee for the Respect of Human Rights and Democracy in Rwanda.
Various media in Rwanda describe him as a flamboyant person whose source of wealth is unknown and has had run-ins with the law. In interviews with Rwandan press Ndegeye claimed he accumulated his wealth through “smart dealings in artisan products and real estate”. But in 2007 he was arrested following a Red Notice issued by Interpol in connection to crimes he had allegedly committed while in Belgium before returning to Rwanda at the end of 2006.
Belgian authorities said he was involved in money laundering, counterfeiting and forgery but escaped to his home country when the case was still ongoing and was thus not present when he was handed a three-year sentence.
Police in Rwanda arrested him on December 13, 2007 but he only spent 18 days in custody after the prosecution failed to convince the court to extradite him to Belgium.
He allegedly travelled by road to Kinshasa and flew to Paris from Ndjili International Airport, then transferred to Brussels to continue with his sentence.
After finishing his sentence and returning to Rwanda, police issued a warrant for his arrest for allegedly orchestrating a fire that burnt down a building that housed B Club, Kigali.
He was to resurface in Kenya in 2015.