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Ashok Doshi: Intrigues that led to prosecution of billionaire over prime city land

 Tycoon Ashok Doshi in the dock at Milimani Law Court. [File, Standard]

In 1992, billionaire Ashok Doshi was on the path of expanding his business empire and decided to look for land within Nairobi.

His search bore fruit when he met businesswoman Jennifer Nthenya Wambua who owned a 2.5-acre land along Processional Way but wanted to dispose it to save her hotel business which was struggling.

"Jennifer, while acting jointly with one Jimmy Mutinda under Greenview Lodge Limited, decided to sell the land at a cost of Sh18 million. They found a buyer in the name of Doshi Iron Mongers, a sister company to Magnum Properties who offered to buy the land at Sh20 million," said a report filed by Director of Criminal Investigations (DCI).

This was confirmed by a letter of offer from Greenview Lodge Ltd dated May 14, 1992 in which Jennifer agreed to sell the land to Doshi for Sh18 million.

However, in a strange twist of events, Doshi who has been in possession of the land for over 30 years, become an accused person alongside his lawyer Harit Sheth who oversaw the transaction.

The billionaire and his company Magnum Properties Limited were charged last Monday before Nairobi Chief Magistrate Lucas Onyina while Sheth managed to get an order stopping his arrest and prosecution.

Sheth, in his application to stop the charges, revealed the intrigues and alleged blackmail and accused Jennifer of being insincere and a liar who sold her land to Doshi only to turn back when her plans to extort the billionaire failed.

At the time of the land's transaction, Sheth was representing Doshi but since Jennifer had issues with the Ministry of Lands over none payment of stand premium rates, she also appointed the lawyer to act for her.

"Jennifer appointed me to represent her and instructed me to write to the Commissioner of Lands for his consent to sell the land to Doshi's Magnum Limited. I did my due diligence and ensured that the whole amount of Sh5.5 million due to the government was paid," said Sheth.

After both Jennifer and Doshi had executed the sale agreement when she received the entire purchase price, Sheth stated that they paid a stamp duty worth Sh1.2 million which was acknowledged by the Ministry of Lands.

In the sale agreement which was also filed in court, both Doshi and Jennifer signed the document after agreeing on a purchase price of Sh20 million.

 Ashok Doshi has been in possession of the land for over 30 years. [iStockphoto]

What is more intriguing was the decision of the Director of Public Prosecutions to charge Doshi while overlooking an earlier recommendation by the DCI to prosecute Jennifer on eleven counts of forgery, giving false information, uttering a false document and obtaining registration by false pretence.

Trouble over the land's ownership started in 1995 when Jennifer is alleged to have changed her mind, saying she wanted to repurchase it from Doshi. In the alternative, she demanded the land be registered under their joint ownership but the businessman declined.

Sheth revealed the details in his affidavit that he declined Jennifer's manoeuvres and to be part of a scheme that would have gone against Magnum Ltd's legal rights as the rightfully owner since it would have amounted to professional misconduct.

Repurchase property

"While the land transaction had been marked as concluded in 1992, Jennifer changed mind along the line and in August 1995 wrote to Magnum Ltd indicating that she wanted to repurchase the property due to pressure from her family," swore Sheth.

When that scheme failed, Jennifer turned to the DCI and filed a complaint in September 2009 alleging the sale price was agreed at Sh120 million and that there were two sets of sale agreements.

Her claim was that Doshi's company made a down payment of Sh20 million as per the first sale agreement and the balance of Sh100 million was to be paid as per the second sale agreement which she had not received.

She also claimed that she learned of a fraudulent transfer of the land and issuance of a title deed to Magnum Properties Ltd although the purchaser was yet to pay her the balance of Sh100 million.

The DCI stated that since Jennifer kept on making frivolous complaints against Magnum Properties Ltd, they centred their investigations on the existence of two sale agreements, validity of Sh1.2 million stamp duty paid to the government and the alleged fraud in transferring the land to Doshi.

The DCI did its first investigations and on September 25, 2021 released a report which has been filed in court as evidence of who owns the land. The report signed by PM Kayemba on behalf of the DCI gave a detailed account of the land's ownership dispute and concluded that the allegations by Jennifer were based on misrepresentation of facts which cannot amount to criminal prosecution.

"The current directors of Greenview Lodge Limited cannot be complainants and witnesses in the criminal case as they hold a title deed acquired through fraud and malpractice. Their case against Doshi is contrary to public interest and abuse of the legal process," said the DCI.

 Billionaire Ashok Doshi. [File, Standard]

The DCI's findings traced the 2.5-acre land's ownership to March 1986 when it was allotted to Jennifer's Greenview Lodge Limited by the government. She owned the company with one Jimmy Mutinda who ceased to be a director in July 1997.

The investigations revealed that Jennifer, by a letter of consent dated May 25, 1992, offered to sell the land to Doshi's Magnum Properties Ltd at an agreed price of Sh20 million and she and Mutinda signed the sale agreement.

"Investigations revealed that Magnum Ltd paid stand premium of Sh5.5 million and was issued with a receipt and stamp duty of Sh1.2 million thereafter a transfer dated March 25 1992 was executed and registered based on the consent given by the Commissioner of Lands," said the DCI.

The report stated that the vendor (Jennifer) by a letter dated April 2, 1993 and completion statement of payment handed over the vacant possession to the purchaser (Doshi).

It further established that Jennifer had made similar complaints to the Ministry of Lands in 2007 alleging fraud in the land's transfer but the matter subsided after the ministry confirmed that the transfer was genuine and the title held by Doshi was clean.

According to the DCI, they subjected all documents presented by both parties to forensic examination and established that Jennifer's documents were forgeries and recommended that she be charged with giving false information.

"The file was sent to the DPP for perusal but he recommended that Jennifer should not be charged until a case she had filed in 2011 at the High Court over the lands ownership be finalised," said the DCI.

After the DCI's land fraud unit completed investigations in September 2021 which absolved Doshi and Sheth of any criminal culpability, Jennifer through his company Greenview Lodge Limited filed a suit at the Environment and Lands Court in 2022 claiming the land's ownership.

Genuine owner

She had listed the Chief Lands Registrar and the DCI as respondents while Mr Doshi, his wife Pratiba Ashok Doshi and the DPP as interested parties. However, before Justice Wabwoto could determine who was the genuine owner of the land, she made an application on January 3, 2023 to withdraw the suit.

"Having considered the application for withdrawing the suit and response from all the parties, the suit is marked as withdrawn and the file to be marked as closed," ruled Wabwoto.

 The case is scheduled for hearing on June 27. [iStockphoto]

With the withdrawal, Doshi resumed possession of the land hoping that the matter was settled only to be summoned by the DCI three months later and be dragged to court where he was charged alongside his company Magnum Properties Limited with four counts of fraud and forgery.

"Between May 14, 1992 and September 2, 1992 at Ardhi House, Nairobi, within the Republic of Kenya jointly conspired with intent to defraud the government of Kenya Sh1.2 million by fraudulent means," read count one.

He faced a second count of making a document without authority; the third count was for forgery while count four alleged that Doshi forcibly took possession of the land in a manner likely to cause breach of peace against Greenview Lodge Ltd.

Whereas Doshi was charged with forging a stamp duty valued at Sh1.2 million to register the title in 1992, documents from government records filed in court shows that the stamp duty was genuinely paid for, acknowledged by the Ministry of Lands and confirmed by the Government Printer.

A letter by the printer on May 13, 2021 in response to DCI investigations confirmed that Doshi's records of the land emanated from their office.

"Going by our records, the number of the records in question was printed and issued to the Ministry of Lands and Housing on May 25, 1992. A copy of our register book is herewith attached to confirm this," stated the letter from the government printer.

The case is scheduled for hearing on June 27.

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