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Miwani sugar ordered out of disputed prime land

NYANZA
By Harold Odhiambo | October 6th 2021

Deserted Miwani sugar company in Kisumu county. [Denish Ochieng,Standard]

Struggling Miwani Sugar Company is headed for tougher times after it lost battle on a multi-billion shilling piece of land.

The parcel of land has been at the centre of controversy for nearly three decades, and had been a subject of a criminal suit over an alleged fraudulent transfer.

Other entities have also sought to dispose of the land, including a 1993 case filed by Nagendra Saxena, who obtained an order to sell the property through a public auction.

In the latest suit, Crossley Holdings got a reprieve after the Environment and Land Court in Kisumu declared that it owned the land.

The ruling by Justice Antony Ombwayo now puts in jeopardy development projects, including plans to establish a special economic zone.

Crossley sought to restrain the miller and four government institutions from laying claim to the land. It also sought compensation of Sh6 billion it claims it has lost in income.

The company had also sought eviction of the miller’s workers and any other assets from the property, and an injunction stopping the parties from selling or leasing the parcel.

The company listed the sugar company, the Agriculture Cabinet Secretary, Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA), Kisumu County Government and the Attorney General as respondents.

Crossley told the court that it acquired the land through a public auction, but the government denied them possession of the land.

At the time of the purchase, the company also claimed that the miller was privately owned, with the government only owning 49 per cent of its shares.

The petitioner argued that the land was valued at Sh696 million but was sold at Sh752 million. It told the court that it obtained the parcel in December 2007 and its title registered in 2008.

“Over the years, several entities have tried to make a collateral attack by way of judicial proceedings on the legality of the petitioner’s ownership of the land without success,” the company said.

It further claimed that at the time it was buying the land, none of the authorities, including the miller, attempted to stop the sale.

Miwani Sugar, on its part, said the parcel was fraudulently acquired and described the auction as a sham.

The miller also claimed there was no proof of payment, and alleged that the fraudulent activities involved several people, including a sister company to Crossley Holdings.

Miwani also claimed that Crossley was using the legal process to frustrate the State in its plan to lease out the suit property.

AFA said the parcel belonged to the State and that its request for interested people keen on leasing the property is justified.

But Justice Ombwayo said Crossley had proved its case and ordered Miwani Sugar and all the respondents to vacate the property within 60 days.

The judge ruled that the rights of Crossley were breached. He, however, declined to award the damages the company was seeking.

“The court grants an order of permanent injunction stopping all the respondents from selling, leasing, transferring, charging, mortgaging and granting licenses or easements to the land or in a way dealing with the land to the detriment of the petitioner,” said Ombwayo.

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