Taxpayers money spent on the dubious Ruaraka land transaction was immediately scattered to 24 entities in a burst of transactions.
Some Sh261 million was withdrawn in cash while Sh66 million was paid out in cheques to recipients who are yet to be traced by anti-corruption detectives.
Sh1.5 billion was paid by the National Land Commission (NLC) in what Parliament described as a conspiracy "to fleece and swindle" public funds.
So suspicious were the transactions that accounts were ordered frozen, then, strangely, unfrozen by the courts.
The money trail that investigators have been following shows that NLC paid Whispering Palms Estates Ltd, which was not a party to the transaction, then the entire sum was wired to several companies, law firms, individuals and the rest carted out in cash.
But why a company that had been compensated for the “loss” of its land would opt to quickly wire the entire amount to various entities is one of the intriguing sideshows of the current case.
The Nation has established that Sh930 million — the bulk of the money — was wired to the account of Champions Kenya Limited, which was later used to redistribute the money to several law firms and companies.
Also in the spotlight is why a Nairobi magistrate issued an order dated February 8, 2018 which allowed these entities to access the money.
In the order, the chief magistrate said it has been “proved to me on oath that the investigations were fully conducted and the investigating officer finds no valid reasons to continue freezing the accounts. It is now here ordered that the following accounts be unfrozen…” The accounts were held in eight banks.
Anti-corruption detectives are interested in knowing on whose behalf the four Nairobi law firms received Sh319 million from Champions Kenya Limited.
Traditionally, law firms receive money for clients and banked in trust accounts held by the firms.
A company by the name Kenya Arab Contractors Limited received Sh220 million from Whispering Palms account while Sh48 million was paid to Global Infrastructure.
The latter company would also receive an extra Sh10 million from another law firm. Other companies which received the money include MLorry Logistics (Sh15.5 million), Innovious Limited (Sh35 million) and Sh10 million for whistle-blower Meshak Dehay – the man who had written a stinging memo to the Senate on the land case. Another recipient of Sh50 million was a Mr John Mutwiri.
Interestingly, records indicate that Sh261 million was withdrawn in cash, making it hard for detectives to trace who was paid.
The Ruaraka land saga centres on a Nairobi tycoon named in a parliamentary report as Mr Francis Mburu and the chairman of National Land Commission Prof Muhammad Swazuri, commissioners and other officers of the agency, who are in the spotlight for possibly breaking the law in the acquisition of land for Ruaraka High School and Drive-In Primary School in Nairobi.
Detectives are investigating whether a company, named by Parliament as Afrison Import Export Ltd and Huelands Ltd — the supposed owners of the land — and officials from the National Treasury and Ministry of Education colluded to compensate Afrison for a land it had already surrendered to the government for the building of a public school.
Investigations by the House Lands committee established that NLC initiated the purchase of the land allegedly after receiving a complaint from Afrison and valued the land at Sh3.3 billion.
Investigators believe that the payment by NLC was fraudulent because the schools were actually on public land. They believe that senior government officials were involved in an exercise that saw the government buy back its own land.
It was the National Land Commission which triggered the payment when they wrote to the ministry of Education, saying they had received a complaint from Afrison to the effect that they wanted compensation for the said land.
Prof Swazuri, in a letter Reference VAL. 1446 and dated 13th September 2016, told then Education minister Dr Fred Matiang’i that NLC had carried out a ground inspection and verified that there existed two schools.
The entity had also submitted an independent valuation report as a compensation claim and the NLC’s letter to Dr Matiang’i was a request to the ministry to confirm the status and compensate the owner in order to close the long standing matter.
Dr Matiang’i is said to have minuted the letter to the Principal Secretary Basic Education, Belio Kipsang, for action and asked him to seek legal guidance and secure interest in the two schools.
The NLC, according to the investigator’s report, “wrote to the Cabinet Secretary confirming that the commission was undertaking the legal process and requested the Ministry of Education to deposit Sh3.2 billion to NLC account.”