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Lawyer fights ‘secret State payment to Matiba family’

Friday December 13 2019

Veteran politician Kenneth Matiba

Veteran politician Kenneth Matiba addresses Wangu Investment Company shareholders' meeting in Murang'a County on December 18, 2016. PHOTO | MARTIN MWAURA | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

SAM KIPLAGAT
By SAM KIPLAGAT
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A lawyer who represented multiparty democracy hero Kenneth Matiba, in a case where he successfully sued the State for torture compensation, says Treasury secretly released hundreds of millions of shillings to the family despite a court order stopping further payment.

John Mburu claims he was informed that the Treasury had already released a further amount in disregard of the order.

Mr Mburu has accused the Matiba family of trying to avoid paying him his rightful legal fees.

The order has been extended on several occasions, the latest being December 5 by High Court judge Weldon Korir awaiting a ruling on January 20.

“The money has been sent to the Attorney-General for payment to the administrators of Matiba’s estate,” he said.

The administrators include Matiba’s widow Edith, daughter Susan and son Raymond.

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HUGE PAYOUT
Mr Matiba was awarded Sh978 million by the High Court as compensation for torture and the amount at the moment exceeds Sh1.5 billion plus interest.

Mr Mburu has protested the move to pay the family at his expense.

He said the family intended to use the power of attorney to disburse the money to themselves once it was released by the Treasury and avoid paying him.

Through lawyer Nicholas Ombija, Mr Mburu told the court that the State had quietly paid Matiba’s family Sh200 million early this year behind his back yet he was the lawyer who successfully prosecuted the matter.

He said there were plans to disburse a further Sh500 million to the family pursuant to a secret agreement between the family and Attorney-General Kihara Kariuki.

OTHER AWARDS

The first instalment was allegedly paid in mid-February.

“The payment was made completely without participation or involvement on the part of the applicant and without his knowledge,” he told the court.

“In colluding with the deceased’s family to pay them behind the applicant’s back, entering into the said secret agreement with them and paying the said sum to them directly behind the applicant’s back pursuant thereto, in violation of his lien on the decree for his fees and as the advocate on record for the deceased, the respondent was actuated by malice, nepotism and clear corruption.”

Mr Matiba, who also served as a Cabinet minister, was awarded Sh978 million as special and general damages by Justice Isaac Lenaola, then a judge of the High Court.

The court also awarded him Sh15 million in damages and for violations suffered, and Sh18.1 million for medical expenses.

Mr Mburu said that since the judgment was delivered, the family sought to deprive him of his fees and then colluded with the Attorney-General to be paid the whole sum behind his back.

Mr Mburu wondered why the AG and the family did not wait until all court processes were exhausted.

DETENTION

Mr Matiba, a former Kiharu MP, died in 2018 aged 85 after battling a long illness.

He suffered a stroke while in detention in May 26, 1991 but State officials did not bother to get him medical attention and he remained in that state for a week.

Documents filed in court by the administrators showed Mr Matiba left property valued at Sh732 million, although the amount is set to rise following the High Court award.

In seeking compensation, Mr Matiba argued that he lost investments worth Sh5 billion following his detention.

A financial and investment analyst called by Mr Mburu, Lawrence Riungu, testified that Mr Matiba’s businesses started collapsing soon after his detention after an illustrious career in politics and a flourishing business empire.

An audit of the estate had revealed that the politician lost more than Sh2 billion in commercial real estate and a further Sh2 billion in privately held shares.