300 tycoons probed over Sh10b land grab

Elaborate scheme: Twalib says campaign to recover stolen land has started bearing fruit
Detectives have tightened the noose around the necks of over 300 millionaires who are believed to have grabbed swaths of prime land and other assets worth over Sh10 billion from State agencies.

Consequently, the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) has filed 148 cases in the Environment and Lands Court in Nairobi to recover the properties, which has been irregularly sliced off from Kenya Railways Corporation (KRC) and other agencies.

EACC Chief Executive Officer Twalib Mbarak told the Sunday Standard yesterday, “We have 357 cases of recovery of assets worth Sh10 billion. The value keeps on appreciating before court.”

“Out of these, 148 cases on lands are pending in Environment and Lands Court in Nairobi.”

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The anti-graft boss said although the process of recovering the stolen land and other assets was long and taxing, as the title deeds could only be cancelled after a court process, the campaign had started bearing fruit.

“Some people have come to us in confidence. They are surrendering their plots after realising that we are closing in on them. They have pleaded with us not to expose them to public ridicule. That is why they do not want to contest the ownership in court,” Twalib said.

So far, the commission has recovered a prime piece of land worth Sh2 billion in Nairobi’s Milimani area, which had been grabbed from the University of Nairobi.

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“We have also recovered another plot in Nairobi’s Woodley Estate in Kilimani, valued at Sh1 billion and another parcel grabbed from Race Course Primary School valued at Sh700 million,” he said.

In Nakuru, four blocks of land worth Sh69 million, which had been appropriated from the defunct Nakuru Municipality Council, have also been recovered.

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But even as the EACC trains its guns on land grabbers, fresh details show how some well-connected individuals have for decades plotted and got away with land owned by the KRC.

“We have uncovered an elaborate scheme, where some former employees of KRC conspired with surveyors and land officers from the Ministry of Lands to steal the land,” Twalib said.

Biggest heist

In once case, a former KRC manager grabbed a plot along State House Road measuring 0.1596 hectares (half an acre), which he later sold to a company owned by a man and his wife last year.

And in what could be one of the biggest heists of the KRC property, a 500-acre parcel registered in the name of East African Railways and Harbours was irregularly acquired by one individual and was counter grabbed in a multi-layered scam.

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The land was transferred to an unnamed individual in 2009 via an allotment letter for a term of 45 years.

Documents from the Department of Lands, Nairobi, dated November 13, 2009, which are in our possession, read: “RE: unsurveyed Quarry Plot-North Kaputiei (Kajiado): Letter of Allotment. I have the honour to inform you that the government on behalf of Ol Kejuado County Council hereby offers you a grant of the above shown plot… subject to your normal written acceptance of the following conditions...”

The area of the land is approximated to be 242.81 hectares or 607 acres and the unnamed benefactor is supposed to pay a standing premium of Sh12,233,000 and a further annual rent of Sh246,600 for 45 years.

This means the nameless benefactor will have paid the government Sh12.3 million in 45 years, the time the lease is supposed to be in effect.

A decade before PK Kahaho was signing away the quarry on behalf of the Commissioner of Lands, part of the same land was registered in the name of a local elder.

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Ironically, when the scandal erupted, Kahaho wrote a detailed letter explaining that the Stoney Athi Quarry land was legitimately owned by KRC.

Never sold

Documents show that in the second instance, the individual was given 37.73 hectares (94.325 acres), which he subdivided into five portions of between 20 hectares (50 acres) and five acres whose mutation maps were registered on January 11, 1999.

However, former Kaputiei Councillor Julius Lenin Taiya, who was the chairman of the now-defunct Ol Kejuado  County Council around this period, denied any knowledge of the the quarry being allocated to an individual.

“This land was surrendered to the local community through the county council. They even gave us a title deed. It is surprising that somebody claims to have a title,” Taiya said.

There is also the puzzle of Taiya, who is listed as the registered owner of LR Kajiado Kaputiei North/13780, which the KRC records indicate has since been subdivided into smaller plots and titles issued.

“I still have the title deed to my 20 acres. I have never sold or subdivided it. If there is somebody claiming to have other title deeds to this land, they must be fraudsters. Theirs are useless papers,” Taiya said. He said at one time he wanted to develop the land but the local community was very hostile.

[Additional reporting Roseline Obala and Cyrus Ombati]

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