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What Killed Francis Kiambi Matanka? Inside the Memoir of an Affluent Businessman Riddled with Controversy

The late Francis Kiambi Matanka and his wife Mary Waigwe Muthoni when they appeared in court for allegedly selling liquor using fake KRA stamps
The late Francis Kiambi Matanka and his wife Mary Waigwe Muthoni when they appeared in court for allegedly selling liquor using fake KRA stamps

Francis Kiambi Kiriiro, who died suddenly on Monday morning, was a businessman whose life was riddled with controversy.

Sources have revealed that the ongoing probe into the death of the prominent figure in Tharaka Nithi County will focus on poisoning, among other theories.

His wife, Mary Waigwe Muthoni, had refused to guarantee a Sh2 billion loan so he could start a new business.

She said they arrived home ten minutes past midnight on Sunday and Mr Kiambi could be heard snoring throughout Sunday night before he was discovered dead on Monday.

A doctor from Karen Hospital confirmed that he was dead at around 9 am and police visited the scene for assessment before the body was moved to Lee Funeral Home awaiting autopsy.

According to police, the body had no physical injuries, but the deceased had vomited beside the bed.

Police believe he developed heart-related complications contributing to his death.

They, however, want to establish what triggered the attack.


Kiambi built a massive family business empire trading as Patiala Distillers Limited, yet despite being a multimillionaire, he lived a down-to-earth life.

He earned community affection by sponsoring initiatives in Tharaka and organizing major get-togethers and tournaments for residents and paying for feasts and entertainment.

With his background in agronomy, Matanka, as he was popularly known uplifted the economic status of the Tharaka community by introducing watermelon and gadam sorghum farming which earned the locals a lot of money with many people able to pay school fees for their children.

As a result, many villagers moved from grass-thatched houses and built iron sheet-roofed homes.

What most did not know is that Matanka was only using a small percentage of his massive wealth accumulated from his vast liquor manufacturing estate.

The company located along Airport Road, Nairobi, processes some of the country’s most popular vodka brands, including Konyagi, Best Brandy, Diamond Ice, Gold Medal and Blue Ice.

Tax evasion

However, since 2021, the liquor tycoon was on the radar of the Kenya Revenue Authority over alleged tax evasion.

On August 27, 2021, KRA arraigned Matanka and his wife at the Milimani Law Courts on charges of selling alcoholic beverages affixed with counterfeit excise stamps to distributors.

KRA enforcement officers while conducting compliance checks on different shops within Nairobi found dozens of bottles of vodka affixed with counterfeit excise stamps at a shop in Mwiki.

The raid followed efforts by fraudulent manufacturers using counterfeit excise stamps on excisable goods such as bottled drinking water, alcoholic beverages and cigarettes to evade excise duty.

The couple was out on a cash bail of Sh500,000.

Safeways Taxis

Aside from the liquor business, Matanka had enormous interests in the real estate and taxi business, investments that made him one of the richest people from Tharaka Nithi.

The businessman was the owner of Safeways Taxis which operates in Nairobi as well as towns around Mt Kenya such as Meru, Isiolo, Nanyuki, Embu, Chuka, Nyeri, Ol Kalou, Kirinyaga and Murang’a.

The taxis focus on high-end clients in the corporate sector and are one of the most prestigious companies preferred by clients in the banking and hotel industries.

Land grabbing

Apart from the tax evasion case, the tycoon also had run-ins with the government over a land-grabbing attempt in Embakasi, Nairobi County.

The court had dismissed his application to have a piece of land he was fighting for against a group of squatters.

This is after the Lands Department of the Nairobi City County Government wrote to him, indicating that they did not recognize the allotment because the suit property was not given by the county government to squatters of the Dafur Dupoto Settlement Scheme.

He moved to court seeking a declaration that he is the absolute and beneficial owner of the suit property known as Plot Number C3 Embakasi Township (2935/R) by virtue of a lease granted by the Nairobi City Council.

He also wanted a permanent injunction restraining the defendants either by themselves, their servants, employees or agents from disposing of, transferring, alienating, occupying or otherwise dealing with the property.

He sought a mandatory injunction compelling the defendant to show the plaintiff the beacons setting out the subject land boundaries and to issue the plaintiff with the title documents.

Justice BM Eboso dismissed the application, on the basis that the request lacked merit, principally because the supporting affidavit was bare and did not contain proper evidence to support the allegations made in the notice of motion.

Looting of public funds

Matanka was also the proprietor of Terra Craft Limited.

For those not aware, Terra Craft Limited was heavily involved in the massive International Amateur Athletic Federation (IAAF) scam, where money meant to help the youth of this country, was siphoned by briefcase companies and tenderpreneurs.

According to the Auditor General’s Report, the company did not deliver any goods or services but yet was still paid a whopping Sh78 million for doing literally nothing.

The money was paid by the Ministry of Sports and the former PS Joe Okudo expressly authorized these dubious payments.

Although he dismissed the Auditor General’s report as “fake” the PS might one day find himself in the same position as his former colleague Lillian Omollo.

Tax-Payers Money Paid Via The IAAF-Scam Used For Tharaka Nithi Senatorial Campaigns

Matanka’s death was reported by his wife Mary Waigwe Muthoni who told police they returned home together at around midnight Sunday after spending some time at an entertainment joint at Karen shopping centre.

The deceased held a meeting with his wife, his relative and a family lawyer at Big Smoke Bar and Restaurant located in Karen where they also took some drinks.

Other family friends said Matanka looked disturbed of late.

They however did not know what was bothering him.

Failed political career

Matanka had tried to plunge into politics twice in 2007 and 2017.

The deceased ran for the Tharaka Member of Parliament seat in 2007 and lost to Mburi Muiru and in 2017 he contested against Interior and Coordination of National Government Cabinet Secretary Prof. Kithure Kindiki for the senatorial seat, but he also lost.

Matanka did not run for any seat during the recent polls and kept off politics as he concentrated on expanding his business.

Interior CS Prof Kithure Kindiki, Governor Muthomi Njuki and Woman Rep Susan Ngugi mourned Matanka as an astute businessman who was an asset to the county and country at large.

Prof Kindiki said Matanka was an iconic entrepreneur who not only built an impeccable business empire but also helped inspire a generation of businesspeople from the Ameru region and nation at large.

He said he will be remembered as an astute business leader whose acumen saw him establish one of the largest manufacturing industries in Kenya, employing hundreds of people directly and impacting thousands of lives.

The leaders have appealed for thorough investigations of the death even as they condoled his immediate family.

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