Deputy President William Ruto is battling to save Weston Hotel from possible demolition.
The Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) has written to the National Land Commission (NLC), alleging that Weston stands on its land, which was irregularly acquired.
Yesterday, Mr Ruto’s lawyer, Ahmednasir Abdullahi, appeared before the NLC at a sitting presided over by Vice Chairperson Abigael Mbagaya to defend the deputy president’s acquisition of the plot on Lang’ata Road.
He questioned the commission’s jurisdiction to determine the ownership of the land.
NLC had written to Weston Hotel Limited to appear before it to defend its land papers in reply to the KCAA petition. Ruto, Rachel Chebet Kimeto and Charlene Chelagat Ruto are listed as the hotel’s directors.
Mr Abdullahi denied that his client had acquired the land irregularly, saying no one had come forward to claim the property since it was acquired. He also said no complaint had been received from the State or any individual during the hotel’s construction.
“Our client is not aware of any allegations of fraud or misrepresentation against him in procuring the transfer and registration of the property. In any event, if such an allegation were made, it would be the duty of the person making such claims to prove it.”
Abdullahi told the NLC panel that Ruto acquired the land in 2007 for Sh10 million from its registered owners, Priority Management Ltd and Monene Investments Limited.
The two companies had been allocated the parcel of land measuring 0.7 hectares (1.7 acres) on January 5, 1998 for a period of 99 years to develop residential flats and apartments after paying a stand premium of Sh320,000.
The companies got the certificate of lease for the land in 2002 before transferring it to Weston Hotel on June 13, 2007. Weston then applied for change of user, which was approved.
The hotel, according to a valuation report by Zenith (Management) Valuers Ltd, was valued at Sh300 million in May this year and had been charged to a bank for Sh1.2 billion.
On December 7, 2011, Ruto charged the property for Sh100 million, which was discharged on October 8, 2014. Ruto and Rachel signed the charge documents on December 8, 2011 as directors of Weston.
Ruto then charged the property to Kenya Commercial Bank for a Sh350 million and $1.5 million (about Sh150 million) facility on June 30, 2014. This charge was signed by Rachael and Charlene.
On July 8, 2015, Weston took a further charge of Sh700 million which was signed by Rachael and Charlene before lawyer Nancy W. Gitau. This took the total charge at KCB to Sh1.2 billion. All the charges were prepared by the law firm of Hamilton, Harris and Mathews (HH&M).
“KCB subsequently extended additional credit facilities to our client and as a result instructed HH&M to prepare further charge over the property, which was stamped and registered,” said Abdullahi.
He added: “Our client is a bona fide purchaser for value. If there is any defect on the title, our client was not aware of it. The allottee has a valid grant obtained from Government, on which was endorsed the transfer to our client.”
The lawyer told NLC to consider the legality of documents by Weston, saying the hotel directly employed 141 people with several hundred in indirect employment as suppliers and taxi operators.
NLC wrote to Weston on October 8 explaining that it was carrying out inquiries on the circumstances around the allocation and registration of LR Number 209/14372 on Lang’ata Road.
The commission set October 31 as the date when both Weston and KCAA would appear jointly to defend their ownership claims.
But Ruto questioned the intention of the inquiry. He demanded to be given a copy of the formal complaint from KCAA, an explanation on how NLC reached the decision to conduct the inquiry, and any document the commission had about the land.
KCB lawyer Martin Muge asked the commission to be sensitive on the decision it took on the matter, saying it could have ramifications on the bank’s interests.
“In accordance to the Land Registration Act, the rights of the chargor (KCB) have an overriding interest over any land charged,” Mr Muge said.