It will be a long trip back home for 17 foreign directors of betting firms whose licences were not renewed after the government pushed its crackdown on the gambling industry a notch higher by ordering their deportation.
On Tuesday night, the Immigration department began flying home some of the foreign nationals whom sources told the media were detained in the hours after Interior CS Fred Matiang’i signed the order shortly after 2pm.
The decision was reached after the National Security Advisory Committee (NSAC), with the blessings of President Uhuru Kenyatta, decided there would be no backing down on the war against rogue betting companies.
This is after what has been a week of high octane open warfare fought in the courts, in public through tough statements and advertisements punctuated by back-room lobbying and arm-twisting failed to bring the State and betting companies to the negotiating table.
According to sources, among those deported on Tuesday were directors from Bulgaria, Italy, Russia and Poland.
The deportation orders said that those sent back home were in Kenya illegally since the licences of the companies they were running were cancelled.
The orders also said that whatever they were doing was in contravention of their work permits.
The Interior ministry refused to disclose the names of those deported citing security concerns.
“This is still an ongoing operation so we won’t disclose their names for now because those being deported have to be arrested first,” Interior spokesperson Wangui Muchiri told the media.
On Tuesday morning, banks started to freeze the accounts which are thought to hold billions of shillings following an order by CBK on Monday night.
And that’s not all. In what was a very fluid day SportPesa, Betin and Betpawa moved to court seeking to reverse an earlier decision by the Betting Control and Licensing Board (BCLB) to block their paybill numbers and short codes.
In separate suits, the firms asked High Court judge Weldon Korir to hold BCLB bosses for contempt for putting their businesses at risk of being arrested for operating without a licence.
They also faulted the BCLB for blocking the paybills despite the pending legal battle in court.
However, justice Korir declined to heed to their pleas on wanting BCLB bosses punished over the issues they were protesting about.
Instead, he ordered that the betting board together with telcos Safaricom and Airtel be allowed time to respond to the case first before any punishment is imposed on them.