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Hearing of family dispute over Sh1.4b estate ends after 9 years

RIFT VALLEY
By Lynn Kolongei | August 22nd 2021

 

Lawyer Phillip Murgor [Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard]

When former Kanu-era politician William Cherop Murgor died 15 years ago, he left behind a vast estate worth Sh1.4 billion.

But like many wealthy families in Kenya, the Murgors failed to agree on how to share the wealth left behind by their patriarch.

They became locked in a legal tussle that has taken nine years to resolve.

On Thursday, however, the hearing of the succession dispute pitting the children of the late politician concluded with the court expected to convene on November 1 when a judgment date will be given.

At the centre of the dispute are prime properties in Eldoret and Iten that the children of the late MP have been fighting over. 

A decision by Murgor to exclude his daughters in the distribution of land took centre stage at the High Court in Eldoret last year.

Some of the daughters fought back decisions by the estate administrators to leave them out of the  Sh1.4 billion estate.

Enid Cheptanui, who resides in the United States, sued the estate administrators - Francis Murgor, Chemutai Murgor and Keiyo North MP James Murgor - accusing them of sidelining other siblings in sharing of their father’s land.

Ms Cheptanui and her four siblings - Ambrose, Oscar, Sharon and Faith - argued that Dr Murgor intentionally apportioned himself the lion’s share of their father’s property.

However, while testifying before Justice Helen Omondi, the MP told the court he did not take part in the distribution of his father’s estate, adding that his late father distributed land to his 'legitimate' sons.

“Our father gave each of his sons 50 acres in Kaptagat and Chesigot farms. He gifted me the 70-acre Kapkoi farm, and we all settled at our apportioned properties and at no point did any of our siblings complain about the gifts while our father was alive,” he told the court.

He said his father’s decision not to share his wealth among any of his daughters was never challenged until in 2012, six years after his death.

However, the children of the fourth wife, Ann Kimoi, have claimed the MP gave himself a bigger portion and sidelined them in the sharing of the property.

Murgor was married to Soti Murgor, with whom he had five children, three of whom are deceased; Rosa Kimoi Murgor, who had eight children including the current Keiyo North MP; Rosalina Teriki Murgor who had six children; Anna Kimoi Murgor who had four and Philomena Murgor who had two children.

James said their once-united family had been torn apart by the court case that has escalated in the past nine years, with mediation attempts collapsing last year.

And last Thursday, a forensic expert who was the last to testify in the case told the court that the late MP’s signature on land transfer documents was forged. The private forensic expert, Emmanuel Karissa, appeared before Justice Omondi.

Karissa told the court that he had been requested by Senior Counsel Philip Murgor’s firm in May 2015 to do an analysis on, among others, various documents including transfer of land documents and various letters purported to be written and signed by the deceased.

He said he had received another request in July 2019 by the same firm to analyse and examine more documents. However, during cross-examination by the defense, Karissa was hard-pressed to explain the nature of his assignment.

Matthew Murgor, also a beneficiary, filed an affidavit supporting the administrators of the estate terming as false the allegations of fraud against his siblings.

The final witness, an advocate working with the firm that represented the late MP in many of his estate transfers, presented before court a register showing the various transactions carried out by the deceased.

Senior lawyer Murgor, representing a section of the siblings, had earlier claimed that the purported will allegedly left by the deceased had been forged to deny other siblings their rightful share of the property.

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