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Forty MPs benefit from Sh8bn land in Nairobi

Saturday October 11 2014

Government officials and MPs have occupied the disputed 134-acre piece of land in Karen, Nairobi, which they are developing despite a court order stopping the same. PHOTO | WILLIAM OERI

Government officials and MPs have occupied the disputed 134-acre piece of land in Karen, Nairobi, which they are developing despite a court order stopping the same. PHOTO | WILLIAM OERI | NATION MEDIA GROUP

At least 40 Members of Parliament are among top Jubilee government officials and politicians believed to have benefited from a Sh8 billion property in the Karen suburb of Nairobi in what may turn out to be one of the boldest cases of land grabbing in recent history.

The MPs have benefited from the disputed property alongside government officials and brokers in what is seen as a scheme to buy their silence and gone ahead to prepare basic infrastructure in flagrant disregard of a High Court order stopping development on the land.

A spot-check by the Sunday Nation on Saturday found several tractors and earthmovers paving roads and preparing building foundations in what appeared to be a desperate race against time by developers, many of who had driven to the property in gleaming high-end vehicles.

At the centre of the dispute is city businessman Horatius Da Gama Rose and former National Social Security Fund (NSSF) Managing Trustee Jos Konzolo, the owner of a company called Telesource, which claims ownership of the 134-acre land.

In an apparent case of mega corruption and impunity, some of the companies involved in the land are said to have owned it long before they came into existence, which is a legal impossibility.

Some of the owners of the companies claiming the land were in school when the city businessman was buying the property in 1982.

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Government officials involved in the scheme are exercising raw power in defiance of a court order and were demarcating the land on Saturday despite a court order on the matter that is expected to be heard in the High Court on Monday.

Court documents seen by the Sunday Nation show that the prime land has been sub-divided by Telesource into 189 plots.

We established that the parcels have been taken over by a number of highly-placed government officials and MPs while others were sold.

The officials include top security officers, hence the overwhelming presence of policemen at the site.

Mr Da Gama Rose’s company, Muchanga Investments Limited, has sued Telesource, Habenga Holdings, Jina Enterprises Ltd, Director of Survey, Director of Physical Planning, Ministry of Land, Registrar of Titles and Chief Land Registrar in the dispute.

The dispute has sucked in the National Land Commission (NLC) which, in a letter dated May 10, 2013, confirmed that the land belongs to Mr Da Gama Rose.

“I wish to confirm the surrenders in respect of titles IT 74050 and 74051 have been registered. According to our register, LR NO 3586/3 has reverted to its original status. You may confirm the cancellation of the deed plans with the Director of Surveys,” states Mr Peter Kahuho, who signed the letter on behalf of NLC chairman, Dr Mohammed Swazuri.

HOLDING MERE PAPER

It may well turn out that those who have benefited from the allocation or purchase of the property may be holding mere paper should the court uphold the position taken by the Commission.

Justice Nyambura Gacheru barred the parties from interfering with the land until the matter is heard and determined.

The temporary orders barring activity on the parcel were extended to Monday, October 13.

On Saturday, Mr Da Gama Rose complained that the government was condoning grabbing of private property.

“It is outrageous that the rule of law has broken down completely and people can just walk into private property and declare ownership. It is not a personal matter; if it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone,” said Mr Da Gama Rose from the UK where he is receiving medical attention.

The 70-year-old businessman’s lawyer, Mr Cecil Miller, said the rule of law had been disregarded.

“The rule of law must be upheld. The court order barring any development of the land must be observed. Activities have continued on the land despite a court order,” said Mr Miller.

In a scene reminiscent of the Zimbabwe takeover of farms belonging to white farmers, the Sunday Nation witnessed people representing the MPs and top officials jostling to demarcate their portions.

Owners of earthmovers and lorries did brisk business having moved their machines to the site for hire.

Construction of access roads was going on as some of the beneficiaries brought in sand, ready to start construction.

SHARE SPOILS

According to a Lands official familiar with the land, Jubilee bigwigs have come together to share spoils, protect each other, and using State organs to preserve the takeover, disregarding a court order.

They hope or expect the court to rule that the status quo on the land be maintained, in which case they would inadvertently have been granted legal stay as they tighten their grip on the property.

Initially, Muchanga Holdings hired police officers to guard the land but the officers were withdrawn by their bosses in unclear circumstances.

The MPs who have benefited from the land have been roped into the project to buy their silence.

The same favour was extended to senior security officials to enmesh them in the scheme and sidetrack them from performing their task.

The Sunday Nation learnt that a top Jubilee official received 10 acres, while a Cabinet secretary got six acres, a governor five acres while the 40 MPs involved in the scheme received between half-an-acre and two acres each.

An acre of land in the area currently sells at Sh50 million.

The heightened movement on the land started last weekend and accelerated on Wednesday when two MPs and a top Jubilee government official are said to have visited the site.

On Saturday, the Sunday Nation obtained pictures showing that excavation continued undeterred.

In a protest letter dated October 9, 2014, and addressed to Land and Housing Cabinet Secretary Charity Ngilu, Muchanga Investments lawyer, Mr Miller, said the illegal invasion of the land was being supervised by ministry officials.

“On October 4, 2014, persons unknown to our client who were accompanied by officers from the regular and administration police and officials from your ministry… turned up at the client’s property claiming ownership of the same,” says Mr Miller.

FLAGRANT DISREGARD

He said that the said people moved earthmovers to the land where they are constructing roads.

“The illegal invasion of our client’s property together with the sub-division of the same and all other activities carried out are in flagrant disregard of a court order issued by the High Court on September 3, 2014, which  expressly restrains anybody from entering, selling, disposing of or in any way dealing with our client’s property,” states the letter.

Mrs Ngilu did not respond to our inquiries despite phone calls and SMS messages.

On Saturday, we learnt that police officers were investigating Mr Da Gama Rose over claims that at one time he was involved with land belonging to the first Nairobi Provincial Commissioner Godhard John Mburu.

According to police, they want to ascertain how the land changed hands to Mr Da Gama Rose.

But impeccable sources in the Lands ministry say that Mr Mburu owned the land adjacent to Mr Da Gama Rose’s, which he sold to a retired politician.

“The reality is that the late Mburu sold his land to a prominent politician who used to neighbour Da Gama Rose. The late Mburu’s land is different from the 134 acres in question,” said the source, who cannot be named for fear of reprisals.

ELEVEN YEARS BEFORE INCORPORATION

According to an affidavit signed by Mr Da Gama Rose, he bought the land in 1982 32 years ago from Arnold Bradley through Barclays Bank of Kenya for Sh1.2 million.

According to the documents, when he bought the land, its registration number was 3586/3.

In the documents, Konzolo’s Telesource Co. Limited says it bought the land from Jina Enterprises 20 years ago at Sh135 million.

After the alleged purchase, Mr Konzolo went ahead to sub-divide it.

Jina Enterprises allegedly bought the land from Habenga Holdings, who are the first defendants.

The baffling fact is that Telesource was registered as the owner of the land on March 17, 1994, a whole 11 years before it was incorporated on September 14, 2005, with Mr Konzolo and his wife as directors.

Even more baffling, Jina Enterprises on Saturday denied involvement in the land transaction.

A director who did not want to be identified said that when they are said to have sold the land, the owners of the company were still in school.

“This weekend I’m not speaking to the media,” Mr Jos Konzolo said via telephone when reached for comment on Saturday night.

According to Mr Da Gama Rose, the defendants are using the invalid and illegal title together with other illegal and invalid approvals.

“Habenga, Jina and Telesource have illegally and fraudulently acquired an illegal and invalid certificate of title over Muchanga Ltd’s property,” states Mr Da Gama Rose in an affidavit.

According to the documents, the transfer of land from Habenga Holdings to Jina Enterprises was registered with the Lands office on April 26, 1983, which is before the date Jina Enterprises Limited was incorporated on October 5, 1995.

The documents also show that the transfer of document between Jina and Telesource is not dated “which makes it incapable of registration,” according to Mr Da Gama Rose’s affidavit.