In 2015, a group of small investors settled on a Sh210 million parcel of land in Mavoko, Machakos County.
In what promised to be a bountiful venture, Mukwano Distributors had big plans for the 30-acre land.
They had two options - to subdivide and sell it at a profit or develop a housing estate.
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In a few years, the bank loan for the land would be serviced and profits were not far from sight, or so they thought.
Five years later, their dream is in tatters; they can no longer access the land.
They are now embroiled in a vicious and costly fight in and out of the corridors of justice as they stake their claim to the land.
Amid their struggles, a racket operating in the area has sold part of the property to about over 280 unsuspecting Kenyans in cheap quick land deals.
Some buyers had even started building homes, oblivious of the losses ahead due to the contested ownership.
The racket came to light on Monday when Seuri Legusi Sanoye was arraigned at the Milimani Law Courts on fraud charges.
He is alleged to be the mastermind behind the land selling racket.
Investigators say Mr Sanoye conspired to defraud Mukwano Distributors of the parcel of land and forging of title deeds.
He was, however, released on a cash bail of Sh500,000 or an alternative Sh2 million bond.
In a ruling in July last year, Mukwano Distributors have declared the rightful owners of the land, and Sanayo ordered to vacate the property.
“The defendant (Seuri Legusi Sanoye) be and is hereby restrained whether by himself, his agents, servants, successors or assigns from entering, encroaching, trespassing, working, constructing, fencing, alienating, building or transacting on all that parcel of land known as LR No 26700/3 comprised in Grant No IR 119942,” said Machakos Environment and Land Court Judge Oscar Angote in the ruling.
But despite being declared the rightful owners by the court, Mukwano Distributors are yet to access the property.
Now, Chief Executive Vincent Wasonga worries that more people are falling prey to the fraudsters and termed Mavoko a hotspot for land scammers.
“We’re losing money. Since 2015, we have never set foot on the land but are servicing the loan… we’ve never been able to put up even a pole,” said Wasonga. An acre in Mavoko goes for about Sh7 million, but the racketeers are said to be selling an eighth of an acre at Sh700,000.
“It’s a common issue in Mavoko. When you want to occupy it, invaders emerge with fake titles; even big organisations are losing their land,” added Wasonga.
When buying the piece of land, Wasonga and his team had not foreseen any trouble as it was previously owned by a State firm - the Numerical Machining Complex.
“Unlike other parcels of land where people claim ancestral ownership, this parcel of land had direct government ownership,” said Wasonga.
He said doing an audit trail and due diligence of ownership was easy, and even the parastatal’s executives confirmed that they had sold the land.