An Italian investor is in trouble after the Court of Appeal ruled on Friday that the plot his five-star hotel was built was not his.
Remo Lenzi, who owns Seven Island Hotel in Watamu, was told by three appellate judges that the title deed of the plot on which he had built his hotel, worth Sh1 billion, was fake. The document was cancelled.
The court ordered that plot number 103 legally belongs to Sarah Jelangat Siele, who has been battling in court for more than a decade.
The judges quashed a High Court judgement by Justice Oscar Angote on May 13, 2016 in which the judge ruled that Dr Siele could not legally claim the plot because the land had been set aside by the Government for a settlement scheme at the time she claimed to have been allocated the plot.
But on Friday, the appellate judges faulted this reasoning and declared that Angote’s conclusions were factually wrong because he did not take into consideration a surveyor’s report that showed that plot 103 had never been part of the Kilifi-Jimba Settlement Scheme.
The judges also ruled that Siele legally acquired the land from the Government through allocation on May 1, 1989 for a lease of 99 years and was awarded a title deed that has not been contested or cancelled. Mr Lenzi purported to have bought the plot from Abbas Lali on March 17, 2003 under a fraudulent title deed bearing a different plot number - Kilifi/Jimba/1125.
“We hereby set aside the learned judge’s judgement on May 13, 2016 in its entirety and substitute the same with the following... [that] Dr Siele has a valid title over plot number 103 Watamu [and] rectification of Kilifi/Jimba/115 by cancellation of the portion relating to plot number 103 subsumed thereunder,” said appellate justices Alnashir Visram, Wanjiru Karanja, and Martha Koome.
The judges also found that the entire chain of events from which the Italian was laying claim to Siele’s land was fraudulent, including the purported allocation of the plot to a squatter, Athman Swaleh, on October 6, 2000, who allegedly sold it to Abbas Lali on January 28, 2003 before Lali, allegedly, sold it to Lenzi on March 17, 2003 for Sh26 million.
Siele, who has been fighting Lenzi and the Ministry of Lands for illegally allocating the land to Swaleh on claims it had been turned into a settlement scheme, lost the case at the High Court in Malindi on May 16, 2016.
She appealed against the judgement, accusing Justice Angote of failing to follow the law by not taking expert evidence of a surveyor who clearly gave the true picture of the plot.