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Kinuthia, the shrewd lad who conned his way to Rwandan jail

Saturday September 21 2019

Charles Kinuthia

Charles Kinuthia was this week convicted by a Kigali court of fleecing Rwandans. PHOTO | COURTESY 

JAMES KAHONGEH
By JAMES KAHONGEH
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In his colourful LinkedIn profile, Charles Kinuthia, the Kenyan man who was this week convicted by a Kigali court of fleecing Rwandans, describes himself as an “accomplished and distinguished” chief executive officer of a “new national franchise company”, an entrepreneur, motivational speaker, leadership trainer, educator and mentor.

GLOBE TROTTING

Kinuthia further says that he was recently honoured with a PhD in the humanities, without mentioning the awarding institution. Besides hopping from one job to another, he offers sketchy details on how he has made his great fortune. Asked about what he does specifically, Kinuthia has previously said that he owns a software company “and several other companies here and there that we run around the world”, without divulging details.

But even more spectacular is how, in 10 short years, Kinuthia transitioned from a jobless immigrant to a globe-trotting trainer, who gives talks to entrepreneurs on wealth fitness.

As though that were not incredible enough, he belongs to the same club as Jeff Balagna, CEO of Team Car Care, who owns retail, technology, hospitality and healthcare service companies, among other globally acclaimed entrepreneurs.

Kinuthia claims that one doesn’t have to have gone to school to be able to work the complex mathematics involved in accounting and tax business.

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“You just need to get people who are smarter than you and have them do the job for you,” he told K24 TV two years ago.

FULL SCHOLARSHIP

 “I was born and raised in Kenya, and spent a significant part of my life in Australia,” his profile reads. Kinuthia also claims to have lived “temporarily” in Finland, where he won a full scholarship to the University of Helsinki to study for his Bachelor’s degree in business management.

The highlight of his high-flying career, according to the profile, is his company, One Stop Tax Services Inc, a “national income tax preparation franchise”, which he founded in 2006 after his relocation to Texas from Australia.

That’s not all. Kinuthia says he is the chairperson of Montgomery-based Lone Star College Business Management Advisory Board, which is “one of the largest and fastest growing community colleges in Texas”.

It’s not by accident that he employs superlatives and other catchy phrases to describe himself and his achievements. Kinuthia is as crafty as he is street-smart, which perhaps explains why he has been invited to many talk shows on TV locally and abroad.

AGGRESSIVENESS

His life, though, has not always been on the fast lane. Kinuthia and his siblings grew up in poverty in Nakuru County, with a jobless mother and an absentee father. He studied at Utumishi High School, where he performed dismally in the Form Four examination, following many days spent out of the classroom.

It is from these thin fortunes that his aggressiveness was nurtured, he says. Determined to advance his education, he applied for a scholarship at the University of Helsinki. Thankfully, he was invited for an interview.

Kinuthia passed his admission exam and got a placement. That was taken care of. But he would soon come face to face with the tough reality of being jobless in a foreign country and without anyone to turn to.

“I befriended a Ghanaian guy who allowed me to sleep on the floor of his living room for weeks as I looked for a job. I was lucky to be employed as a cleaner in restrooms at restaurants, bars and banks,” he narrated to a local TV station.

BLACK SHEEP

Before his return to Kenya in 2017, Kinuthia had spent 14 years outside the country as he sought to liberate his family out of poverty. Today, his entire family has relocated to the US, thanks to him. Ironically, Kinuthia was the black sheep of his family, which he has admitted on the record.

His pie started to crumble when he organised a highly publicised wealth conference in Kigali in May. Thousands of young Rwandans flocked the Kigali Convention Centre, lured by the Sh20,000 that was promised as an incentive for attending.

There was a twist though. The Sh20,000 that had been promised would not be in cash, as implied, but in terms of value for attendance.

Owing to the huge number of delegates, the police cancelled the event for security reasons. The participants sued the organisers for scamming them.

TRAIN PEOPLE

This week, a Kigali court found Kinuthia guilty of swindling Rwandans of money in fees (Sh500) for the event that never took place, sentencing him to two years in jail with a fine of Sh325,000.

His three accomplices — two Kenyan women and a Rwandan man — were, however, acquitted.

But is it practical to train people to be wealthy? Kinuthia believes it is.

"There is a lot of information out there, it’s what you do with the information that matters," he told Citizen TV last year, noting, that most people are ‘‘not ready to pay the price to be successful.

On the legacy he wants to leave behind, Kinuthia hopes ‘‘to inspire, ignite and impact’’ people’s lives. For now though, that will be put on ice as he serves his jail term in Rwanda. His lawyer Evode Kayitana is petitioning the Kenyan government to intervene and rescue his client.