Kanyotu widow, firm battle over 500 acres

James Kanyotu.

A widow of former spy chief James Kanyoyu is embroiled in a legal battle over ownership of land in Ruiru worth millions of shillings.

In the case filed before the High Court by Marriot Africa International Limited, the company has claimed ownership of 500 acres of land allegedly sold by a company owned by Kanyotu’s family.

The case against Mary Wanjiku Kanyotu was filed by lawyer James Nyiha.

Margaret Nyakinyua Murigu, Willy Kihara and a company owned by the Kanyotu family, Kangaita Coffee Estate Limited, have also been listed as respondents.

Marriot claims that in April 2012, Kangaita Ltd sold the family land to a firm known as Trendsetters Investment Limited for Sh700 million.

The current value of the land was not immediately established.

The firm claims the widow and her firstborn son, John Kariuki Kanyotu, executed the deal with Trendsetters.

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Trendsetters is said to have been represented by its director, Sanjay Kishorkumar Mashru, in the agreement.

Wanjiku is said to have received Sh65 million from Trendsetters for the sale and a further Sh30 million to permanently withdraw all cases regarding the land, LR No. 11261/76.

On February 5, 2014, Trendsetters sold the land to Marriot for Sh750 million.

Subsequently, in October 2014, the land again changed hands to Ukombozi Holdings Limited, a company owned by the Deliverance Church, in a deal that Mr Nyiha claimed saw the property sub-divided into over 1,000 plots and sold to the public.

“During the purchase of the said parcel of land from Trendsetters Investments Ltd, Marriot carried out its due diligence at the Lands Registry in Nairobi and established there was no encumbrance registered against the title to the said parcel of land,” said Nyiha.

Alleged caveat

At the heart of the suit is an alleged caveat, issued by the family court, barring Kanyotu’s family members from selling his properties.

On November 29, 2014, the court gave orders in favour of Kanyotu’s second wife, Jane Gathoni Muraya-Kanyotu, who contested the disposal of the former spy chief’s land.

Marriot claims that by the time the caveat was being issued, the land had already been sold thus the order issued in favour of some members of Kanyotu’s family is inconsequential, null and void.

This after advertisements warning buyers that the land could not be sold due to the caveat were published in the local dailies.

“The said adverts were fraudulent and misleading and absolutely untrue since the plaintiff has, since purchasing the said parcel of land from Trendsetters Investments Ltd, been the lawful and legally registered owner of the same,” Nyiha said.

Kanyotu died in 2008 leaving behind a massive estate comprising prime agricultural land and plots across the country.

In succession battle documents contained in case number 1239 of 2009, the former spy chief is said to have bought at least 60 plots. Thirty-seven of the plots were in Kirinyaga County.

Kanyotu registered the properties under four companies where he was the sole shareholder.

Kangaita Coffee Estate Ltd had six properties while Kawakanja Ltd had one property in Limuru. Halfmoon Investments Ltd held eight properties.

In the case that came up for hearing before court yesterday, Marriot’s director Abdul Dawood Hassan claimed that only 500 plots have not been sold to third parties.

In his supporting affidavit, he argued that the land’s title and agreements have been transferred hence the family cannot lay claim to the land.

“The defendant, on oath, confirmed to the court that indeed the said Kangaita Coffee Estates Ltd had sold the said parcel of land known as LR No. 11261/76 to Trendsetters Investments Ltd, and that the estate of the late James Kanyotu did not have any claim against the said Trendsetters Investments Ltd or any person to whom Trendsetters Investments Ltd had sold the said land, that is, the plaintiff herein,” said Mr Dawood.

The firm wants Kanyotu’s family, their company or agents to be barred from interfering with the land.

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Mary Wanjiku KanyotuRuiru