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DCI probes former PCEA clerics over land fraud

Sunday December 2 2018

PCEA

This image taken on December 1, 2018 shows a section of the controversial land in Ruiru. The purchase of the property by PCEA clergymen is being investigated by detectives. PHOTO | ERIC WAINAINA | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

ERIC WAINAINA
By ERIC WAINAINA
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Detectives are probing a multimillion-shilling land fraud that has put two Presbyterian Church of East Africa (PCEA) clerics among other people in their list of persons of interest.

Hundreds of people fear losing their investment running into millions in the scandal.

The 790-acre parcel of land, previously a coffee farm, is located in Ruiru, Kiambu. It was owned by former Kiambaa legislator Stanley Githunguri, then registered under Tassia Coffee Estate Limited.

According to complaints sent to the Director of Criminal Investigations (DCI) George Kinoti, some PCEA clerics, under Milele Ventures Limited, approached the billionaire with intentions to acquire the land measuring 280 acres and 510 acres respectively.

Their plan was to subdivide and then sell it to church members and non-members.

SALE

After negotiations, the parties struck a Sh1.2 billion deal on March 9, 2009, and potential investors were made to believe that the project was owned by the church and some of the transactions happened at PCEA’s head office in South C, Nairobi.

However, its directors could not raise the required deposit.

Mr Githunguri could not surrender the land without the deposit, but to save the situation, they turned to the faithful to accomplish their agenda through off-plan sales to enable them raise the requisite amount.

The sale announcements were made on Sundays in various PCEA churches in Nairobi and Kiambu.

An initial public announcement on the land sale by the company bore the addresses of PCEA headquarters in South C — claimants told Sunday Nation this assured them that it was a church project.

VALUE

Rev Peter Kania, the current secretary-general has, however, disassociated the church from the deal.

“Milele (Ventures) is a private company and has nothing to do with PCEA. The church has never been connected to that land, only that some of those said to have been involved in the issue were in leadership positions by then,” Rev Kania told the Sunday Nation.

A quarter-acre was originally selling at Sh600,000, half an acre at Sh1.2 million and an acre at Sh2.2 million. The value of the land has since appreciated to approximately Sh4 million per plot.

Buyers were required to deposit cash instalments at either of two Equity Bank accounts provided by the clerics, one registered under the company and the other under an individual.

One of the buyers who signed a sale agreement on February 8, 2010 paid Sh1,400,010 for two quarter-acre pieces of land.

HOMES

According to the agreements which were witnessed by lawyer Juliet Theuri, the land was selling at Sh700,000 per plot while the legal cost of each agreement was Sh5,000.

Two years later, the buyer was issued with a certificate of ownership dated August 14, 2012 for the plots pending the issuance of title deeds.

Another buyer, Mr Joseph Kanyi, signed an agreement on August 7, 2009 for a quarter-acre plot at a cost of Sh650,000.

He paid in instalments of Sh240,000, Sh350,000 and Sh55,000, including Sh5,000 legal fees.

Many buyers built homes and moved in as they awaited title deeds.

“To date, the only documents in possession of the 800 plus land buyers are the banking slips, receipts for the payments and sale agreements signed with lawyer Juliet Theuri,” Ms Jane Chege, one of the victims, said.

According to the buyers, those who recently visited Ms Theuri's Westlands offices seeking their titles were shocked after allegedly being told that every plot owner is required to top up Sh100,000 as “lawyer’s and title processing fee”.

TITLE DEEDS

The few people who paid never got their titles. Instead they were slapped with yet another new demand of an additional Sh125,000 “title processing fee” per plot.

This means each investor will be required to top up Sh225,000 to the original amount paid per plot.

But Ms Theuri said the Sh50,000 she is demanding is meant to recover her costs.

“It was not my responsibility to process the title deeds, but after the delay, I have been facilitating the process using my money, and therefore when someone comes to collect the title deeds, they have to reimburse my money,” Ms Theuri said as she disputed the Sh225,000 figure.

But the buyers argue that the cost should be absorbed by Milele since they honoured their part of the agreement.

According to Mr Githunguri's testimony in a case he filed against Milele Ventures that is still pending, the company is yet to pay Sh21,450,000.

DEBT

After the firm failed to pay the balance within the agreed period, the directors deposited a title deed for 30 acres as security.

However, the deal was not honoured, but Milele still continued to subdivide and sell the land in contravention of their agreement.

Tired of the frustrations, Mr Githunguri at some point demanded his land back or Sh130 million as debt and accrued interest from the clerics.

To date, the money has not been paid and Mr Githunguri is still holding the title deed pending the determination of the matter. Ms Theuri said she is in negotiations with the businessman’s lawyer on how to reach to a compromise.

However, there is another controversy over double allocation.

“This is a clear case of fraud for it’s evident that Milele Ventures Ltd sold the same land twice and received double payments — from two women and the now displaced plot owners.

"The clergymen deceitfully received double payment for the same land without disclosing all the facts to the affected parties,” reads part of the letter to the DCI, Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji and President Uhuru Kenyatta.

SUMMONED

About two weeks ago, Rev Mwaura, who is currently the parish minister in Kabuku, Limuru, Rev Njoroge who is serving at Kinoo Parish and Ms Theuri appeared at the DCI offices on Kiambu Road where they had been summoned.

Mr Kinoti did not respond to our calls and text messages when contacted for comment.

Rev Mwaura declined to comment about the matter and instead referred Sunday Nation to Ms Theuri, who then planned for a meeting at her office in Westlands on November 21, allegedly with instructions from the reverend, but he did not show up.

On his part, Rev Njoroge said: “What I can say is that everybody who paid money was shown their land but the processing of the title deeds has taken long, which is not unusual … the buyers should be patient.” He confirmed having appeared before the DCI.