Raila in the dock over land tussle

Business

By Paul Gitau

Prime Minister Raila Odinga on Thursday appeared in Malindi law courts to testify in a case in which a company associated with him allegedly sold a beach plot to a foreign investor and claimed ownership of the same plot.

Raila told High Court judge Justice Hellen Omondi that he and his wife Ida own Kang’o Enterprise Ltd and they have never sold the said plot to the foreigner.

The investor John Frazer Unsworth has sued Kango and a squatter Ramia Alex Chakacha over the parcel of land at the controversial Chembe Kibabamche scheme in Malindi.

Unsworth through his lawyer Virginia Shaw wants the High Court to declare him the bonafide owner of the said plot and also lift a caveat imposed by Chakacha, a squatter who claimed to have been allocated the same land by the Government.

The investor said the restriction imposed has made it difficult for him to develop the plot.

He claimed to have bought the 12-acre land at a cost of Sh13.4 million from Raila’s company.

The company is the first defendant, while the Kilifi District land registrar and Mr Chakacha are second and third defendants.

Raila said he first saw the piece of land in 1999, but it belonged to the former Malindi Mayor Kazungu Diwani.

His company then bought the land. The PM said he noticed someone had trespassed and even started building when he visited the place last year.

Raila said as far as he was concerned, he was the legal owner of the said land and that Unsworth and Chakacha had no right to the said property.

Jonson Otieno Odero, an officer from Registrar of Companies who also testified said the PM and his wife were the only directors of Kang’o Enterprises Limited since it was established.

Unsworth had said Diwani was a director in the company, a claim Odero disputed.

Court proceedings

Diwani and four others have since been charged in a Kilifi court last year for forging a title deed and for fraudulently using the address of Kang’o to illegally acquire the land in question.

He pleaded guilty and was fined Sh700,000 while the other, who include the Kilifi District Land Registar, Elizabeth Nzai Thoya were released on bond and the case is ongoing at Kilifi law courts.

The squatter through his lawyer claimed ownership and said the PM and Unsworth had been conned by the former mayor.

The squatter claimed Raila and the investor did not do a search at the Land ministry. The hearing continues.

Inside and outside the court, business came to a standstill as hundreds of locals jammed it to have a glimpse of the PM while at the dock. Raila kept the court waiting for the better part of the morning. According to court schedule, the case was set to start at 11am to end at 12 noon.

Raila, who was escorted to court by Malindi MP Gideon Mung’aro, Kisauni MP Ali Hassan Joho and a host of Malindi councillors arrived in court at 1.18pm after the case had already kicked off with cross examinations to his witnesses.  The Prime Minister was in the dock for 38 minutes from 1.19pm to 1.57pm and was  set to return to court in the afternoon.

The scheme that was established by Government more than 40 years ago was meant for squatters but most of the land is owned by foreigners and prominent politicians.

There are disputes over other plots at Chembe Kibabamche and other areas along the Malindi Coast line.

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