Bitter tussle for JM Kariuki’s millions rages 32 years later

JM Kariuki

The family of slain politician Josiah Mwangi Kariuki (JM) is far from settling legal matters touching on his multi-million shilling estate that has been pending in court for more than 32 years.

One of his three widows wants a tenant operating Castle Inn Hotel in Nairobi, part of her late husband’s estate, committed to civil jail for carrying out renovations on the property without her consent.

Dorris Nyambura, who was given powers to manage the estate along with her co-wife Terry Wanjiru Kariuki and step-son Mark Mwangi, filed the case on grounds that Maina Ihuthia and Riara Kanyuira, the hotel’s operators, disobeyed two court orders by renovating the premises.

Long-running case

But her co-administrators claim only renovations, not demolitions, were carried out in the property and that Nyambura was aware. Nyambura’s matrimonial home, which she shared with JM, is on the same property as the hotel.

JM had three wives —Nyambura, Wanjiru and Esther Mwikali — and eight children.

Last year, High Court Judge Aggrey Muchelule ordered that status quo regarding JM’s estate be maintained, a decision also made by Justice Margaret Muigai in 2014. When the matter came up for mention last week, Justice Muchelule ordered that the application filed by Nyambura on April 28 be heard in June.

The succession case filed by JM’s wife Terry in 1985 is one of the longest legal matters that remain unresolved. It has been handled by judges Muchelule, Muigai, Justice Kaplana Rawal (former Deputy Chief), Erastus Githinji, GBM Kariuki and Luka Kimaru.

When JM was assassinated in March 1975, he was a multi-millionaire, a status he had achieved at a young age by 1966.

JM, whose assassination remains one of the most high profile in Kenya alongside that of Tom Mboya, Robert Ouko and Pio Gama Pinto, had invested heavily in land mainly in Nairobi, Nyandarua and Gilgil.

In inventory lists filed in court by his wives, the MP who died without a will, owned the 808-acre Riverside Farm in Ol Kalou, a plot along Ngong Road, Uhuru Estate, 200 acres in Gilgil and Castle Inn Hotel in Nairobi which sits on 1.2 acres.

Vast estate

He also had shares in blue chip companies such as Kenya Breweries (5,577 shares), CMC Holdings (3,864), Motor Mart Group Limited (250), ICDC (26,977), Pan African Insurance (915), Standard Chartered, Kedong Ranch Limited (1,450), Kulia Investments, Unga Group Limited (522), Lonrho Motors East Africa Limited, Car and General, British American Tobacco, Laikipia Distributors Limited (5,332) and Rift Valley Agencies (8,750).

Remembered for the phrase “Kenya has become a nation of 10 millionaires and 10 million beggars” also had an unknown amount of money in various banks and died before the Law of Succession Act came into force in July 1981.

Section 2 (2) of the said Act stipulates: “The estates of persons dying before the commencement of this Act are subject to written laws and customs applying at the date of the death, but nevertheless the administration of this estate shall commence or proceed as far as possible in accordance with this Act”.

But the tussle over his vast estate has raged on since he died in 1975.

On December 5, 2007 parties in the case agreed that the three widows were the wives of JM and that their children be beneficiaries of the estate. In December 2001, the late Waruru Kanja is said to have chaired a meeting that came up with a mode of distributing the estate.

Joint title deed

It is a proposal from that meeting that Mwikali relied on in her affidavit in court on how the estate should be distributed. The meeting chaired by Kanja had resolved that Castle Inn Hotel be registered in the joint names of Nyambura and Mwikali for the benefit of their children, 77 acres of Riverside Farm be given to the three widows, 57 acres to his sons and 25 acres to the daughters.

But the family was back in court, after the widows failed to agree on one of the properties along Nairobi’s Ngong Road that Wanjiru claimed to have bought but registered jointly with JM.

She claimed that in September 1973, she secured the property at a cost of Sh280,000 and that JM was to contribute to its purchase. A joint title deed was issued in equal shares but JM got too involved in other issues and did not contribute a cent, Wanjiru says.

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