Garissa tycoon’s children in fight for property

Tuesday November 13 2018

The Almond hotel in Garissa County.

The Almond hotel in Garissa County. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

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The children of Garissa tycoon Mahat Kuno Roble have opened a vicious legal battle for control of his business empire, offering insights into the secrets of the multibillion-shilling operation.

Some of the tycoon’s children have teamed up to sue their brother, Mohamed Mahat Kuno, over his control of the landmark hotel, Almond Resort, a Garissa-based hotel regarded as a flagship of the business empire.

Abdiaziz Mahat Kuno and his sister, Farhiya Mahat Kuno, have accused Mohamed of forging their signatures and using them to borrow Sh130 million from Equity Bank. #ticker:EQTY

“The defendant has been using the plaintiff’s company assets to borrow money from banking institutions and shylocks for his own personal use thus exposing the plaintiff and its directors to claims and lawsuits,” Abdiaziz says.

Mohamed is also accused of forging documents to transfer the hotel to his name.

He denies the allegations.

Farhiya and Abdiaziz want the High Court to restrain Mohamed from conducting business on behalf of their company, Almond Resort Limited, arguing that he is abusing his position as one of the directors.

Exit of founding patriarch

The dispute, which has erupted while Mr Kuno is still alive, mirrors other battles that have rocked many Kenyan business empires upon the exit of the founding patriarchs.

Mr Mahat Kuno, the family patriarch, resolved to transfer the hotel business to three of his children to run and hold in trust for the entire family.

The three, Abdiaziz, Faryhiya and Mohamed, were assigned 25 ordinary shares each in Almond Resort Limited.

But Abdiaziz and Faryhiya now claim that Mohamed has borrowed Sh130 million from Equity Bank without their consent.

Mohamed, while admitting that he is a co-director in the company, has denied that Almond Resort owns the land on which it sits, meaning the firm does not own the hotel.

He says the land belonged to their father Mahat who has since transferred it to him, and their maternal grandmother Dubat Ali Fidow to hold in trust for the family.

The 75-rooms hotel sits on the bank of River Tana. The hotel also offers conference facilities and is popular with VIPs visiting Garissa.

Denies forgery

Mohamed has also denied forging the signature of his brother Abdulaziz, noting that they all approved the loan he took from Equity Bank in order to offset a Sh50 million outstanding loan with First Community Bank and utilise the remainder to expand the hotel.

Mr Mohamed says that in July, their father Mahat, being upset by the wrangles among his children whom he has entrusted to continue running the business, instructed that the property to be transferred to one of his other sons Ahmed to run on behalf of others.

Mr Mohamed claims that while the rest of the children signed transfer document as per the wishes of his father, Abdiaziz declined.

He claims that contrary to their claims, Farhiya and Abdiaziz have locked him out and are embezzling the company assets.