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Land commission chair Muhammad Swazuri probed for fraud, forgery

COUNTIES
By Geoffrey Mosoku | July 29th 2014
Muhammad Swazuri. [PHOTO: STANDARD]

NAIROBI, KENYA: Police are investigating National Land Commission (NLC) Chairman Muhammad Swazuri over claims of fraud and forgery.

This follows a complaint launched at the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) over the grabbing of a 10-acre parcel of land in Malindi, estimated to be worth about Sh300 million.

Mr Joshua Kiptoo Toroitich from Nakuru accuses Swazuri, who has since recorded a statement with police, of allocating the prime beach plot to other people using land documents allocated to him (Toroitich) on April 2, 1993, by retired President Daniel arap Moi.

The NLC boss is accused of endorsing the processing of titles using a forged signature of former Lands Commissioner Zablon Mabea. Monday, Kilimani DCIO George Ojuka confirmed that the NLC boss recorded a statement with his office last week but declined to give further details.

"Yes, I took the statement from the chairman but I can't tell you the progress of the investigations since the file was recalled to the CID headquarters," Ojuka told The Standard.

CID Director Ndegwa Muhoro said he could not comment on the issue because he was out of office but promised to respond after verification. The process of seeking Swazuri's removal from office was initiated last Friday after two petitions recommending the same were sent to the National Assembly.

The petitioners want Parliament to ask President Uhuru Kenyatta to appoint a tribunal to probe the land commission boss for allegedly aiding the grabbing of their multi-million parcels of land in Kiambu and Kilifi counties.

Another petitioner, Lydia Wanjugu Gachoya from Kiambu wants Swazuri sacked for allegedly violating various provisions of both the Constitution and the NLC Act by irregularly and illegally allocating their plots to other persons.

The petitioners have attached documents and correspondences to back their claims. Some of the documents endorsing the processing of titles for the disputed parcels of land have the Swazuri's signature and are on official letter head.

Swazuri confirmed he had received the two petitions but was yet to respond, claiming they were part of a wider scheme to derail the commission from executing its mandate.

"We are studying the documents and hopefully by Wednesday, we will respond accordingly," Swazuri told The Standard on phone.

Asked if he had signed any of the papers, the NLC chair said he was in the process of authenticating the documents and thus will not confirm if it was his true signature or a forgery.

In 1995, the lands commissioner accepted payments and authorised the parcel to be surveyed for purposes of title issuance, but the file allegedly went missing.

In the documents, Swazuri signed a new lease title on August 9, 2013, to new owners who include one of the petitioners, Toroitch, David Kiptoo Biwott, Joseph G Wambugu and Ben Kemboi and gave a 99-year lease commencing August 1, 1993.

"Only recently did the file resurface and to our utter shock and consternation, we discovered that the National Land Commission chairman had brazenly issued a title deed to strangers using our set of official documents on file without any reference to us," Toroitich says in the affidavit.

In the second petition, Ms Wanjoya and Thogotho Uhai Self Group, claim Swazuri irregularly allocated about 100 acres of their land (LR 2256/8) in Nairobi's Dagoretti area to two shoddy corporate entities, Mbukoe Investment Limited and Selby Falls, by willfully and deliberately creating a double allocation. The land had been annexed from the Dagoretti Forest in 1950.

The group claims on June 24, this year, he opened a file for Mbukoe in spite of his office approving their application for allocation of the same parcel on January 24, 2014.

Curiously, the group now says the new allotment to Mbukoe Limited was backdated to August 15, 1998, a Saturday, with the chairman instructing cashiers at Ardhi House to accept payment.

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