Four lawyers have launched an all-out attack on the Director of Criminal Investigations for seeking to have them charged over alleged loss of Sh284 million from the late Mbiyu Koinange’s estate.
The petition by Evans Monari, Justry Nyaberi, Beatrice Kariuki and Alice Wahome to block the Director of Public Prosecutions from prosecuting them has added more twist to the unending dispute for the control of the late Cabinet minister’s multi-billion-shilling estate, which has been pending in court for the past 36 years.
Their main argument, filed through lawyer Brian Odhiambo, is that one of Koinange’s widows, Eddah Wanjiru, made false claims to the police that they misappropriated the funds and inflated the figures to depict them as dishonest advocates.
“The decision to press charges is due to pressure by Ms Wanjiru and her representatives who are out on a malicious excursion to get the lawyers and to ensure that they are subjected to a flawed criminal process that is smeared with illegalities, bad faith, malice and witch hunt,” said Odhiambo.
The dispute relates to the controversial sale of 100 acres of Koinange’s Closeburn Estate to Centum Investments Ltd at a cost of Sh1.1 billion in 2010.
Some of Koinange’s beneficiaries, including her daughter Lennah, had opposed the land sale, given that they were in occupation but they were forcibly evicted through a court order that had sanctioned the sale.
The estate’s administrators however reached a deal to resettle the affected family members, with Lennah being allocated an adjacent land where she built another home from scratch.
The transaction is what marked the beginning of the dispute between the Koinange family and the four lawyers after the court ordered that the beneficiaries be paid Sh290 million and the remaining Sh870 million be deposited in a joint bank account for the estate.
Wanjiru then made a complaint to Director of Criminal Investigations alleging that the lawyers had misappropriated Sh284 million, which was part of the proceeds of the land’s sale kept in their account.
But Odhiambo argues that the DCI’s recommendation to the DPP to charge the four lawyers was illegal since it involves advocates’ discipline and should have been referred to the lawyers’ disciplinary committee if it is true they misappropriated the funds.
“In any case, the amounts that were held by the advocates was not Sh284 million as alleged but Sh166 million. The amount was properly used through the court’s direction and supervision,” says Odhiambo.
He says since the money held in the account on behalf of Koinange’s family was through a court order, Ms Wanjiru should have filed a contempt of court against them instead of making false claims to the DCI.
Lawyer Kariuki, in her affidavit to support the application, detailed the intrigues that the lawyers have gone through representing various members of the Koinange family, and that the complaints by Wanjiru was a personal vendetta.
According to the lawyer, Wanjiru had on several occasions threatened her life for representing her co-wife Margaret Koinange in the dispute and because she was one of the witnesses when Wanjiru was charged with the murder of a lands activist in Narok.
She swore that after the court had ordered that the balance of Sh870 million be kept in a joint account operated by the four lawyers, the family secretly went behind her back and consented to withdraw and share Sh656 million.
“It is therefore not true that the account had a balance of Sh284 million as the actual figure was Sh166 million after they secretly shared Sh656 million. The remaining amount was also to cater for paying surveyors so we don’t understand how the figure was inflated,” says Kariuki.
She gives a breakdown of how the remaining Sh166 million held in the joint account was used under the court’s supervision to prove that the lawyers did not misappropriate any funds from the estate.
Kariuki says the land agent who sourced for Centum Ltd to purchase the 100 acres was paid Sh41 million, the surveyors got Sh56 million, another Sh2.2 million went to creditors, Sh7.2 million as land rates to the City Council of Nairobi, leaving a balance of less than Sh60 million in the account.
“All payments were done through court’s supervision and consent of all beneficiaries. The breakdown is clear that even the Sh166 million that remained in the account was used to settle debts, which shows her complaint of Sh284 million being stolen was false,” said Kariuki.
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