21 March 2019

Kenya: Judiciary to Repossess Kisumu Land Lost in Shady Deals

A court on Thursday ordered the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) to recover land belonging to Kisumu Law Courts that was illegally acquired by former chief magistrate Charles Oloo Kanyangi who later sold it.

High Court Judge Justice Boaz Olao said the defendants did not produce any evidence to absolve them of fraud claims.

Transfer of the 1.884-acre land worth Sh200 million took place in 1994 when Mr Wilson Gachanja was Commissioner of Lands.

SHADY ALLOCATION

The court heard that in that year, following a no objection letter on the land written by Mr Kanyangi on behalf of the Judiciary, Mr Gachanja allocated the judicial officer part of the land and went ahead to execute a 99-year lease in his favour.

Mr Kanyangi then sold the land to businessman Aashish Vallabhdas Jethwa, and according to Justice Olao, he did so knowing it was public land occupied by a functional court.

Mr Jethwa also sold it to Mr Lalji Karsan Ramji Rabadia, who used the title deed as collateral for a loan from Bank of Baroda Kenya Limited. They were the defendants in the case alongside Mayhood Limited.

TRICKED

Judge Olao said the former magistrate conceded to the illegality, but alleged that he had been tricked into aiding the "improper allocation of court land".

In his witness statement, Mr Kanyangi told the court that somebody had made a fake development plan to convince him that the land was vacant and available for alienation.

"I have the genesis of the land. ...Had all that been known to me I would never have written that no objection letter," he said.

But Judge Olao ruled that even though the former magistrate pleaded ignorance, he had no propriety interest in the land. Thus, he cannot use the claim of being duped as a defence.

RESPONSIBILITY

The judge said that as a judicial officer in charge of Kisumu Law Courts, Mr Kanyangi should have referred the officers from the provincial planning offices to the Registrar of the Judiciary who was the custodian of the property.

"By failing to do so, he clearly abused his office and the trust that the Judiciary bestowed upon him, [the] same applies to Mr Gachanja."

The EACC had claimed the defendants did not show any remorse. Justice Olao ordered Mr Jethwa, Mr Gachanja, Bank of Baroda and Mayhood Limited to meet the legal costs.

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