We learnt of Sh370m penalty after account freeze, says Chinese firm

A truck ferrying murram along the Kakamega-Kisumu road. [File, Standard]

A Chinese construction company has said it only learnt of a case where it had been fined Sh370 million for encroachment and illegal extraction of murram when its accounts were frozen.

SinoHydro, which specialises in mega infrastructure jobs in the energy and transport industry, said it was surprised when its accounts at Equity and KCB were frozen over an “unknown” land encroachment case.

The firm said it never had a chance to respond to the suit by Reli Saving and Credit Co-operative.

Through an affidavit filed by its boss Xia Anquan, the company convinced the Land Court to review the judgment as it was entered in its absence. 

According to Anquan, the suit documents never reached them.

“Our postal address is P.O Box 24446-00100 Nairobi while the letters by the firm of Bruce Odeny & Company Advocates which represented Reli Saving and Credit Co-operative were addressed to P.O Box 2446-00100 Nairobi,” he argued.

Anquan, the assistant director and business manager, said freezing their accounts would stall their projects and interfere with their contractual obligations with the Kenyan government.

Justice Samson Okong'o allowed a review of the case to give the Chinese company a chance to give its side of the story. [iStockphoto]

The company’s pleadings were nonetheless rebutted by Reli Sacco which sued it for encroaching on its over 4,000 members’ plots and excavating tonnes of murram for the construction of roads in Western, including the Kakamega-Kisumu highway.

In a replying affidavit sworn by one of its representatives, Ben Charles Auch, Reli Sacco denied claims that SinoHydro was unaware of the suit pertaining to Kanyakwar Residential Plots/Kisumu Block 17.

“When we realised that the SinoHydro had entered the suit property and were excavating murram day and night, we confronted their project manager and asked him to stop the exercise to no avail,” he said.

“I particularly sought the assistance of the police but was advised the dispute was of a civil nature and should be resolved by the court. I instructed our advocates who wrote a demand letter to SinoHydro to stop the trespass but they never heeded the demand.”

He said they filed a case in the Land Court together with an application for an injunction on April 14, 2015, against the firm which has at least 486 international projects in more than 72 countries valued at $43 billion.

He added that the court subsequently issued an injunction against the firm but it appeared unconcerned. “The said order was served upon them at its then offices in Kisumu and despite the service, they continued with the trespass,” said Auch.

Justice Samson Okong'o allowed a review of the case to give the Chinese company a chance to give its side of the story.