Before the events of last Thursday, Praful Kumar Premchand Savla was not well known by the public despite taking on the American government’s Nairobi embassy.
He is now at the centre of a storm for disregarding objections to his new hotel that now towers five floors above the most-guarded and never-photographed embassy.
An ever-present terror threat against the United States means that all goings-on around the establishment are highly controlled, including strolls by ordinary citizens, much less physical development.
A few minutes after 10am last Thursday, officials of the Inspectorate Department of Nairobi County Government arrived at the construction site.
Since then, events have gone downhill fast for Mr Kumar and his proposed Grand Manor Hotel, sandwiched between the embassies of the US, Botswana and the Kingdom of Morocco.
Security guards at the US embassy confirmed the lockdown and eviction of workers who were putting final touches to what would have been a high-end hotel.
“This building is now secured by the GSU round the clock,” said one of guards deployed to supervise the visit by The Standard reporters.
Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko said objections had been raised by the US embassy against the development of the hotel.
Kumar, who previously operated Ukwala Supermarkets before selling it to Choppies, a Botswana retailer, has been arrested for allegedly trying to bribe Mr Sonko.
A leaked telephone conversation suggests that the retailer-turned-hotelier tried to influence Sonko to invoke his powers and help lift the suspension of the construction.
Sonko tells him to comply with the regulations before going to court to have the construction reinstated.
Kumar, who was arrested on Monday in the governor’s Kilifi home, is accused of trying to give Sonko an inducement of Sh1 million.
Previous attempts by the US embassy to halt the construction of the five-storey hotel were unsuccessful, allegedly because Kumar enjoyed the backing of some powerful people.
Residents, who have argued that the area is delineated as a low-density zone, have unsuccessfully tried to block the construction.
“The project will be a security risk as it will overlook the UN, US embassy, Botswana commission and Morocco embassy,” the residents, among them Cabinet Secretary James Macharia, petitioned the county government.