Editor’s Choice Politics

Father Number One: Why retired President denied son Philip pocket money at St Mary’s School

My wife blew Sh 1 million a month while I survived on Sh 6, 000 pension- Philip

Philip and Pluda Moi: “I later discovered I had made a mistake”, ex-wife Pluda told the court,”but already with two little kids, a resigned to hoping Philip would change.”

By GW Ngari

Philip Moi, the second last born son of the late President Daniel arap Moi, was often a broke butt when he was a student at St Mary’s School, Nairobi. At the time in the 1980s, a former school mate recalled that Philip-who was named after Prince Philip- was hardly given any pocket money worthy of a president’s son.

Philip had to scheme ways of getting some dough to burn. Sources didn’t come any better than Provincial Commissioners. Going to Nyayo House to seek handouts from Nairobi PC, the late Fred Waiganjo, was out of the question. He might have thought of calling the president with the predicament that his broke son was in his office begging for alms.

So, “we often drove in a government Mercedes all the way to Nyeri in Central Kenya where we would call on the PC. Philip would introduce himself and plead being financially stranded and did not want his father to know. We mostly did this on Fridays. The PC would dish out anything from Sh 50, 000 to Sh 100, 000, a lot of money in the 1980s,” recalls Philip’s former school mate, and whose uncle was a big gun in the civil service at the time. “We would drive back to Nairobi, drinking the money along the way with the driver.”

It appears President Moi, who has died at 95, always had problems with Philip. Having divorced his mother in 1974, Moi as a father had trouble disciplining Philip and often delegated the task to presidential guards. Philip was such a headache to president, after St Mary’s he was not admitted to foreign universities like other siblings. His father dispatched him to the army ‘to straighten him’ and from where he rose to the rank of a Major.

But money problems continued when he got into business, seeking lucrative government tenders.

Italian Job: Pluda demanded that Philip cough out Sh100 million for upkeep.

Andrew Morton, his father’s biographer notes in his 1997 memoirs Moi: The Making of an African Statesman that, as President, Moi had instructed parastatal heads to deny Philip all state tenders and any favours he sought.

Money issues never stopped stalking him when he got married to Italian Rossana Pluda. She confessed to a local magazine that Philip had given her a debit card capped at Sh10, 000 a month for expenses!

But when she sought divorce, she demanded Sh100 million for maintenance arguing that Philip was in the money.  On his part, Philip alleged that his wife blew Sh1 million a month from her own account while, he a poor pensioner, survived on the Sh6, 000 he received every month as military pension.

Pluda Moi told the court that while their marital bliss lasted, they ate life with a big spoon

But the court in Nairobi which heard the divorce case disagreed with Philip. From a perennially broke student, Philip had fallen into sudden wealth whose source often angered President Moi as he was linked business dalliances with the Italian Mob and suspect crime families in Mombasa, according to British historian Charles Hornsby in Kenya: A History since Independence.

To prove that Philip Moi was loaded like a gun, Pluda told the court that while their marital bliss lasted, they ate life with a big spoon: they had so many servants their Muthaiga home “resembled a small village” including cooks, house helps, gardeners, security guards, car and swimming pool attendants.

Foreign holidays included sunning with the family of Prince Hamid of Brunei, one of the world’s richest families.

Such was their blessed existence before ‘unhappy differences’, allegations of adultery, cruelty and a five year desertion spell ruined the party, dragging them to Divorce Court in 2008.

No longer at Ease: Philip became more unruly after his parents divorce in 1974.

Philip denied the accusations and told the court that it was Pluda who deserted and eloped with another dude.

As part of the divorce settlement, Pluda, an architect, demanded that Philip “as a man of means” cough out Sh100 million in lump sum maintenance and Sh6000, 000 in monthly upkeep for her and the children.

Philip countered that he depended on well-wishers, sympathetic family members and a Sh6, 000 military pension since retiring as a Major in the Army.

In 2003, President Mwai Kibaki commissioned Kroll & Associates a British  private investigations and security firm to comb through the accumulation of wealth by nabobs and henchmen in the Moi administration during his rule.

 Philip Moi was not spared.

The Kroll Report, released in 2004 pegged Philip’s net worth in the billions of shillings.

The tentacles of his interests spread across real estate, manufacturing, agriculture, a development consultancy operating in over 30 countries, an auto dealership and money in local and foreign bank accounts.

The Kroll Report noted that Philip lost Sh1.5 billion after a deal with some Italians went south in October 2002. 

The court noted that Philip is a person of substantial means who has over time perfected the art of concealing what he actually owns

The above was not produced in court as evidence of his wealth. Some interests he held in some sectors could have changed with time.

Philip told the court that the wealth attributed to him majorly belonged to his father, siblings, relatives and friends and that he  “should not accord him special treatment on account of his surname” and that his case should be considered like that of any other Kenyan who did not have famous relatives. 

Saints: The school three of Kenya’s Presidents took their children including Philip Moi.

But the court noted that Philip “is a person of substantial means and of substantial income who has over time perfected the art of concealing what he actually owns.”

It granted Pluda custody of the children but gave Philip visitation rights. The court reduced monthly upkeep to Sh250, 000 when Pluda was with the children and Sh150, 000 when they were not with her. 

Philip in his suit papers cried foul arguing that her demands were unfair considering the mother of his two children was blowing Sh1 million every month from her own Visa card and could thus take care of herself. In any case, demanding Sh100 million far above her upkeep costs “would also allow the commercialization of divorce matters by parties seeking to exploit others.”

The demands were also beyond his reach after flagship business went to the sands. His only assets were two plots in Mombasa and a stock brokerage which earned him around Sh250, 000 to Sh350, 000 a month. Dishing out Sh250, 000 as monthly maintenance would only leave him destitute.

Philip even filed for voluntary bankruptcy but which was later met with legal headwinds.

 Justice Joseph Mutava granted him his bankruptcy plea in 2012 with orders against sale of his assets or paying Pluda upkeep money. In 2016, a tribunal chaired by Chief Justice David Maraga recommended his sacking but in matters related to a different case.

Pluda, through lawyer Judy Thongori told the court that a retired army major surviving on well-wishers could not have afforded his estranged wife a parcel of land in Mombasa valued at Sh120 million and which Pluda could not take it as it “was mired in legal dispute.”

Fatherhood 101: His biography had no family photos of either his wife or children…just presidential functions, planting trees, cabinet meetings.

Philip, as a retired army major hanging on a military pension, also offered Pluda a house worth Sh24 million in Lavington Nairobi as part of the divorce settlement, and Philip was thus trimming the edges of honesty.

Pluda also questioned how a military pension could be bankrolling the high cost universities their children attended in England besides foreign travel, exotic holidays and a standard of living which was beyond upper middle-class.

 After listening from to their legal spurring through their lawyers, and taking notice that Philip refused to disclose his net worth and assets, reduced the payment demands to Sh90 million: Sh30 million in maintenance or Sh250, 000 monthly and buying her a house in either; Karen, Kilimani, Lavington, Runda and Kileleshwa. Or cough Sh60 million in cash.

Judge Luka Kimaru also directed that Philip should shoulder the legal costs of the suit.

He had surrendered to Pluda his house in Watamu valued at Sh140 million

But by January 2019, Philip was fighting arrests for defaulting on settling Sh2.8 million as Pluda’s legal costs which had escalated owing to Philip disobeying court orders leading to multiple applications. He told the court that he had surrendered to Pluda his house in Watamu valued at Sh140 million and thus the legal fee was not a figure for which he should be chased by authorities all over time for and in any case, “jailing me will affect me adversely. It is only fair and just that we be allowed to resolve our differences outside the conventional adjudication process,” he said through lawyer Evans Ondieki.

Nowhere to hide: Pluda and lawyer Judy Thongori. Philip angered his father by bypassing the family and marrying at a subdued civil wedding.

His father, retired President Daniel arap Moi was disappointed with Philip for bypassing the family and marrying a foreigner at a subdued civil wedding at the Attorney General’s Chambers in Nairobi on March 1, 1993. Pluda must have been pregnant considering their first child was born in November 13, that year. A second came two years later on March 31, 1995.

Pluda recalled seeing him removing the wedding band dropping it in his coat pocket and driving to Kabarnet Gardens where he lived with his father. Pluda left in a separate cab to their Muthaiga home.

“The marriage was wrong from the start,” she recalled. “There was no communication from his side. He never asked me anything about my past or about who I was, my family or friends. I later discovered I had made a mistake but already with two little kids, a resigned to hoping Philip would change.”

They later divorced 20 years after they met and 14 of those as a married couple with two children in what Pluda termed “the most gruesome journey of my life.”

After living separately for five years, Pluda filed for divorce in 2008 citing adultery, cruelty and desertion.

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