SECTIONS

Westlands house demolition auctioneer Zachariah Baraza charged with robbery with violence

Avani Shah, the owner of the demolished house looks at the rubble of what used to be her home at Spring Valley in Nairobi. [Samson Wire, Standard

The auctioneer behind the eviction and demolition of a couple’s house in Nairobi's Westlands is at risk of facing the death penalty after being charged with robbery with violence.

Zachariah Baraza was charged with robbery with violence contrary to Section 296 (2) of the Penal Code for allegedly robbing Niraj Batuk Shah and Avani Niraj Shah household goods and jewellery worth Sh18 million on November 4, 2022.

“Immediately after robbing the [a couple of] electronic appliances, jewellery and assorted household items valued at Sh18,097,000 at their house in Westlands along School Lane, you threatened to use violence on the said couple who were living in the house,” read the charge sheet.

Section 296 (2) of the Penal Code provides that a person found guilty of robbery with violence shall be sentenced to death.

Baraza faced a second charge of malicious damage to property where it was alleged that on November 4, 2022, at Westlands School Lane area, he willfully and unlawfully damaged the house of Batuk Lakhamshi Lalji valued at Sh20 million.

The auctioneer denied the charges before Nairobi Senior Principal Magistrate Robinson Ondieki who released him on a cash bail of Sh2 million.

The case will be heard on December 11.

Facing death sentence: Zachary Barasa is accused of robbery with violence and malicious damage to property after allegedly leading goons who demolished Niraj Shah's house in Westlands, Nairobi.  Here, he is in the dock at a Milimani court on Wednesday, November 9, 2022. [Collins Kweyu,Standard]

Baraza had led goons to the couple’s home on November 4 claiming that he had a court order to evict them. He then gave the couple 30 minutes to vacate the premise after which the group stormed the property, demolished the house and carted away the property.

Shah and his wife claimed that they lost property worth Sh80 million during the illegal invasion of their home which they have occupied for over 48 years.

According to the couple, Baraza led about 25 people into the family home where his team destroyed property, vandalised and carried away doors, windows, roofing tiles and building stones.

Baraza faced the charges a day before he appeared before Environment and Land Court judge Oscar Angote to be sentenced for demolishing the couple’s house despite a court order barring the forceful takeover of the property.

He was to be sentenced last Thursday but he failed to appear in court on grounds that he was sick.

Justice Angote ruled that Baraza, who is the proprietor of Siuma Auctioneers, abused his powers by evicting the family without express orders from the court.

At the same time, the magistrate issued a warrant of arrest against three directors of Lariak Properties Limited, the company which is behind the attempt to dispossess Niraj Batuk Shah and Avani Niraj Shah of their property in Westlands, Nairobi.

Mr Ondieki ordered police to arrest and present to court Samuel Chepkwony, John Rotich and Joel Kiplangat to also face the charges of robbery with violence after they failed to present themselves to plead to the charges alongside the auctioneer.