May 5, 2018 tolbert

Julius Mwale is one of them. Standard’s Investigations has unearthed a series of court matters from his days in the United States that point to the kind of man he was and still is. But most importantly, they give telling details on the man’s relationship with money, or rather, the lack of it.

Before he came back to the country, Mwale had put his loan guarantor in trouble in the US after he failed to pay Sh15million he had acquired. His guarantor, a Ms Fiona Graham was dragged to the Nassau County Supreme Court which ordered her pay the debt that had been defaulted on.

Court records show that in 2007, at the suggestion of Ms Graham, Mwale was lent Sh15million ($150,000). His company, SBA Technology, guaranteed repayment of that loan.

“When the loan was not repaid, plaintiff (lender) obtained a Judgment by Confession (“Judgment” against Julius and SBA in the sum of $150,265,” the judgement entered on December 9, 2009 reads in part.

But despite this finding, Mwale did not pay which saw the lender institute contempt of court proceedings against him in the Supreme Court of New York. The court heard that Mwale needed the guarantor so that the lender ‘would stop harassing him or going after him with enforcement proceedings. This would free him from being distracted so that ‘he can focus on his business projects in Africa.’

The guarantor had also advanced Mwale ‘substantial investments’ to support his projects in Africa. In the end, Supreme Court Judge Hon. Timothy Driscoll slapped Mwale’s guarantor with the bill, ruling that she had to pay $159,000 (Sh15.9million) plus interest, costs and disbursements over the loan’s non- performance.

It is not the only court case that he was involved in while he was in the US.

The Backstory

His is the proper poster boy story of rags to riches. At least from his perspective. Mwale first rose to the public limelight in 2010 while describing himself as the President and Head of Strategy of US-based SBA Technologies Inc.

He tells the story of having fled to the US in 2000 seeking asylum after differing with some unnamed people in the air force over intellectual property rights.

“The regime at the time wanted to have complete control of the technology which led to differences between us and ultimately I was forced to flee the country,” he told reporters then.

He says after the fallout, he left by boat to Uganda where he stayed for some time. But he did not feel safe so he says he fled to Zimbabwe.

It was while in Zimbabwe that he sought asylum in the US. This is he ended up in New York at the Charles Gay Homeless Shelter where he stayed for a year before his application for asylum could be approved.

Born in Butere in 1976, he says he developed interest in the field of technology when he joined the Armed Forces in 1994. It is here that he enrolled at the Kenya Armed Forces Technical College for a national diploma in Telecommunication Engineering.

His priorities in school, he says revolved around sports, engineering and business.

The medical city is not the only dream that Mwale has sold in the country.

He caught attention of the country’s technological scene which was at the time embracing the mobile money revolution in 2010 when he announced that he had developed a technology to secure mobile and internet banking, e-commerce and e-government.

Mwale told Standard during one of his short visits in the country in 2010 how his home in New York had been a shack for about a year until his asylum application was approved. With word on his innovation getting into US technology circles, he says he was enrolled as a special admit at Columbia University for masters in Electrical engineering in 2003.

His name does not however come up on the site of the university that lists its current and former students.  At Columbia, Mwale said his technology attracted faculty approval from an unnamed technology researcher.

He said he raised the initial Sh200 million ($2 million) required to roll-out the technology dubbed Data Aggregation Timer Enabled Console. When he came to market the technology in Kenya, Mwale promised those would buy a stake in his firm that it would transform the mobile sector.

At the time, he claimed that his firm was targeting revenues of Sh100billion and had guaranteed revenues at least Sh1billion annually to be shared among the investors. During that visit, he said he was hoping to raise Sh70billion ($700 million) by selling a 10 per cent stake in his company through the American stock exchange, NASDAQ. And buyers had a very limited time to buy into SBA Technologies Inc.

As he departed Nairobi for New York to set in motion the listing of his company, he left behind a telling sign. While on his Nairobi tour, Mwale spent his days and nights at Nairobi’s Norfolk Hotel. And as he chased after his NASDAQ dream, he conveniently left an unpaid bill of Sh3 million. There were no other details on the NASDAQ listing. Neither on the investors.

In two years’, time will be his judge. It will either vindicate him as the country’s biggest investor or a conman who pushed his luck too far.

Luckily, all we have is time and in its fullness, truth stands supreme.

Genesis of trouble

Trouble for the businessman started last year when he had a run in with the county government. The Kakamega county government accused the businessman of kicking off the project before securing requisite approvals.

The county, which had threatened to shut it down claimed it never cleared the investor to undertake the development. Mwale was accused of violating the Kakamega County Physical Planning Act requiring the county to control developments within its jurisdiction, Public Health Act on Housing and Sanitation, County Government Act providing a framework for county planning and the County Land Registration Act.

The county, which had threatened to demolish the project, also accused the investor of ignoring a requirement for public participation before embarking on the project.

But the investor, Tumaz and Tumaz Enterprises, rushed to court to obtain orders barring the county from placing advertisements or notices of demolition of the project which. The firm claimed that it had already spent Sh14 billion.

The fight was also politicized saying Governor Wycliffe Oparanya’s government was settling political scores, afraid of the growing influence of the Mwale kingdom in the region. At the time, Mwale’s brother – Tindi Mwale — was running for office as the area member of parliament. He won.

The second pressure point came last month, when some locals became uncomfortable with a plan by the Butere ACK Church to hand over land meant for Butere Girls’ High School to the investor. Mwale refuted claims that he wanted to grab the land from the school saying he wanted to instead donate Sh85million for the Canon Awori Memorial Cathedral at Butere ACK diocese.