Unsuspecting Kenyans are losing billions of shillings to land cartels, which have been forging documents and later use courts to defeat justice.
The Sunday Standard can report today that the organised criminal enterprise has also been abusing the court process to either halt investigations or delay prosecution so that they can dispose of the fraudulently acquired parcels of land.
Directorate Criminal Investigations (DCI) director George Kinoti confirmed yesterday that his office is currently handling a number of such cases and pursuing suspects, among them top ranking government officials involved in the theft.
The suspects, with connections in various government agencies and ministries, are using instruments from dead lawyers and land owners and existing office holders to grab land, including those whose leases are about to expire to fleece the public. Kinoti disclosed that even foreigners are not spared in the consortium as the impostors later sell the land at exorbitant prices.
He cited a case involving a former journalist, John Mugo Njeru, who also last year sensationally petitioned Parliament for the removal of embattled National Lands Commission chairman Prof Mohammed Swazuri over Standard Gauge Railway compensation fallout. According to the DCI, Mugo and partner Mary Wanjiru Bernard are now being sought by the police over claims of forgery with intent to take possession of land belonging to Jambo Holdings Ltd after the Director Public Prosecutions (DPP) approved their prosecution.
The two have processed ownership documents of a 13.8-acre parcel of land along Lower Kabete Road, which has since been subdivided although the original title had been charged by Jambo Holdings to secure a Sh55 million loan from Fina Bank (currently GT Bank).
“There is sufficient evidence to support the proposed four charges against Mugo and Wanjiru for forgery of title of land, including conspiracy to defraud, making a document without authority and obtaining registration by false pretence,” said the DPP.
However, DPP concluded that there was no sufficient evidence to charge Lands Registrar Bernard Kipkemboi Leitich, whose signature appeared on Mugo’s six title deeds, with forgery and conspiracy explaining that he will be treated as a prosecution witness against the two suspects.
Mugo, however, told Sunday Standard that he was the legitimate owner of the land worth over Sh100 million, claiming he had all the instruments of ownership. “I have the title for the six pieces. I challenge Jambo Holdings to present the title they claim is in the bank as there was no statutory sale between the two institutions. I have appealed against the decision to charge me,” he said.
According to investigations by DCI, the land was originally allocated by the colonial government in 1950 and along the way changed hands to an Asian family who used it as a loan security but were unable to repay leading to the sale by the creditor to Jambo Holdings.
However, Mugo claims he bought the land in 1996 from Trillock Nath Vohora and his three partners for Sh90 million and later submitted the title to the Ministry of Lands to facilitate its subdivision. According to Kinoti, when the DPP approved their prosecution, “the suspects rushed to the resident magistrate in Kiambu and got orders, with the magistrate summoning investigating officers to show cause why they should not be committed to civil jail for contempt of court”.
The DPP however moved to the High Court and challenged the Kiambu resident magistrate decision.
Nairobi High Court Judge Nyenye Macharia overruled them and dismissed their case with costs in 2016, ordering them to take plea before a chief magistrate court but they never showed up.
Earlier, Mugo sought judicial review before Judge Weldon Korir who declined to issue orders sought, directing the petiioners to the Environment and Lands Court (ELC).
According to Kinoti, instead of going to the ELC court, Mugo and Wanjiru went to the resident magistrate court who issued orders suspending warrants of arrest.
DCI however prepared charges to formally prosecute Mugo and his accomplice and further advised them to appear in court to take plea but the latter sought reprieve from a resident magistrate court where summons were issued to show cause why they should not be committed to civil jail for contempt of court.
ALSO READ: Vet land officials, says MP
Kinoti noted that the circumstances surrounding the case evidence had a pattern where suspected land fraudsters are seeking refuge in the courts as Kenyans and foreigners are outrightly robbed.
“(Crooks) use the same modus operandi to slow down the criminal justice process with the view of defrauding and dispossessing members of the public of land parcels. This organised enterprise has to be broken to safeguard members of the public,” said Kinoti.
On his part, Mugo claims he bought the land in 1996 from Vohora and his three partners at a cost of Sh90 million, and the agreement drawn by Stephen Ngunjiri Advocates.
However, according to DCI the seller Vohora and Ngunjiri, the lawyers who did conveyancing, were dead at the time of the alleged transaction.
Mugo took actual possession of land upon purchase and on September 2002 surrendered the original title deed to the Commissioner of Lands vide a surrender form dated the same day to necessitate sub-division into six portions and issuance of leases to his companies.
The companies are Nginyo Roadways Ltd, Daimer Enterprises Ltd, Double Clean Ltd, Maistons Enterprises and Ruora Investment Ltd.
The leasers were alleged to have been, among others, Commissioner of Lands Zablon Mabea and Registrar of Titles Fedson Orare, but they have denied involvement and forensic investigations of the signatures indicate this was forgery, according to DCI.
Mugo argued that since he surrendered the title to Lands Registrar Geoffrey Birudi, Jambo Holdings could not be with the documents including the title. He supplied copies of ownership documents which included six leases that originated from the said land.
The DCI says it has since established that the signature purpoted to have been appended by Birudi is also forged. In the course of investigations, Prof Swazuri confirmed that the land belongs to Jambo Holdings and a search at the Register of Companies on the firms confirmed that out of the six companies claiming the land, only Ruora Investment Ltd and Daimler Enterprises Ltd are registered in Mugo’s name.
The rest do not exist in government records. Former Nairobi County Secretary Lilian Ndegwa, through their chief valuer in 2014, also confirmed the ratable owner is Jambo Holdings; however the title introduced by Wanjiru and Mugo in their file in 2012 is forged, investigations show. DCI obtained documents from Ministry of Lands, NLC, Fina Bank (GT Bank), advocates among others and interrogated them to establish authenticity and history of the land.