The death of businessman Jacob Juma who was buried Saturday has offered the public a rare glimpse into the life of a prominent and controversial businessman who prefers to live his life away from the media limelight – Jimi Wanjigi.
The usually publicity-shy businessman played a big role in Juma’s funeral preparations. He was among the first people to rush to the Lee Funeral Home on the morning following Juma’s murder on May 5.
Visibly shaken, the businessman ignored the presence of a battery of cameramen as he viewed the body of his friend, flanked by Cord leader Raila Odinga, Sirisia MP John Waluke and Juma’s widow Miriam Wairimu.
Two days later, Mr Wanjigi was back at the Lee Funeral Home to witness Juma’s autopsy.
Accompanied by Juma’s wife and other family members, Mr Wanjigi engaged the head of the Homicide Unit at the Directorate of Criminal Investigation Martin Nyuguto in a heated exchange over the handling of investigations into his friend’s killing.
Seated close to Mr Juma’s widow in a small room at the funeral home, Mr Wanjigi put the officer to task as he demanded an explanation on the way the investigations were being conducted.
Mr Juma’s family members joined him in pressing for answers, placing Mr Nyuguto in a tight spot as he tried to explain why his team made the decisions it had taken.
Other than Mr Juma’s widow Miriam, it was Mr Wanjigi who gave his name to Mr Nyuguto to be listed in an official document as one of the two people to identify the body before the autopsy could start.
At Juma’s funeral service on Thursday, Mr Wanjigi’s presence was notable. It was Mr Wanjigi who escorted the hearse carrying the casket to the All Saints Cathedral.
As the service got underway, Mr Wanjigi changed roles, becoming the event’s master of ceremonies.
It was little wonder then that when he rose to give a vote of thanks on behalf of the family, one Mr Bwire paid glowing tribute to Mr Wanjigi, saying his support had been “immeasurable”.
HISTORY OF MISFORTUNE
Requested for an interview after the service, Mr Wanjigi was as reserved as ever: “No! I have nothing to say. He was a good friend and I stand with good friends and brothers to the end, that’s me! I actually don’t know any other way.”
This is the second time in four years that death has thrust Jimmy into the public limelight.
The first time was during the funeral of former Internal Security minister George Saitoti who died in a helicopter crash in June 2012.
Mr Wanjigi read Saitoti’s eulogy, an indicator of the strong bonds of friendship that they enjoyed.
Mr Wanjigi is a son of former Kamukunji MP Maina Wanjigi. He is a nephew of former Treasury Permanent Secretary Joseph Magari, one of the top government officials who were charged over the Anglo Leasing scandal, a series of tenders worth about Sh70 billion, which whistleblower John Githongo revealed were meant to benefit numerous powerful individuals financially.
Mr Magari was cleared of any wrong doing by the courts in 2012.
When the WikiLeaks cables were released, it was revealed in a March 2, 2006 cable that the American embassy in Nairobi had barred Mr Wanjigi from travelling to America among several others suspected of taking part in the Anglo Leasing scandal.
Sources close to the younger Wanjigi say that he met Saitoti, then the minister for Finance, through his uncle Magari, a long-time employee at the ministry.
They soon developed close business and personal ties that survived long after Magari had left the ministry.
Mr Wanjigi was part of Mr Saitoti’s core team that was planning his presidential bid before he met his death.
He then opted to support Mr Uhuru Kenyatta for the Presidency. Both of them went to the prestigious St Mary’s School in Nairobi.
“I met him at Brookhouse when Uhuru appeared for the first presidential debate. He was there at the Bomas of Kenya together with Deputy President William Ruto monitoring election results as they streamed in,” the source, who did not wish to be named discussing his friend’s affairs, said.
However, as some people close to the President had predicted, Mr Wanjigi’s relationship with Jubilee soon soured over government contracts.
In recent times, he seems to have gravitated towards Cord and is thought to be among the core people planning Raila Odinga’s campaign next year.
The family’s main investment vehicle is Kwacha Group of Companies, a holding firm of several companies, which was founded by his father in the 1970s.
It has interests in Carbacid Investments, East African Cables, Kenya Airways, Total Kenya and Barclays Bank, among others.
The company indicates on its website that it also owns the Nyeri, Murang’a and Kitamaiyu Coffee Estates and housing projects in Ridgeways, Karen and Nakuru.
Recently, a company known as Pindoria Holdings sued Kwacha Group of companies for allegedly refusing to pay for a facelift project at Kwacha House on General Mathenge Drive in Westlands which it valued at Sh15 million.
“Sometime in February 2012, Jimmy Wanjigi informed me that Kwacha was in the process of carrying out renovation works in its premises. Kwacha and its architect consequently approved the quotation (by Pindoria) and proceeded to carry out the renovation. In breach of the contract, Kwacha did not settle the invoice and the amount has continued to accrue interest and stands at Sh15 million,” Pindoria says in its plaint.
At the height of the scandals at the National Youth Service scandal, businessman John Odhiambo swore an affidavit claiming that he met ODM MPs in Mr Wanjigi’s office planning on how to make money from the troubled state agency.
“On the morning of November 7, 2014 I attended a meeting at the offices of Jimmy Wanjigi located at Kwacha House. In attendance were Jimmy Wanjigi, John Mbadi and his wife Catherine (Achieng), Junet Mohammed, Jakoyo Midiwo and a gentleman introduced as Ben Gethi,” reads the affidavit.
Last year, Mr Wanjigi sued the Standard Group, journalist Jeff Koinange and activist Tony Gachoka over claims that he was defamed on a show aired on KTN on March 17, 2015 linking him to the Anglo Leasing scandal.
The company, Mr Koinange and Mr Gachoka were all fined for contempt of court for disobeying a gag order on discussing Mr Wanjigi in the programme.
In 2013, the elder Wanjigi and his wife were injured by thugs who broke into their home in Karen and stole money, jewellery and guns.