Kenya: Moi Caught Up in Yet Another Land Ownership Feud

Former President Daniel arap Moi is once again at the centre of a controversial land sale after it emerged that a company he co-owns with businessman Joshua Kulei sold to Uchumi Supermarkets a 20-acre parcel, which the Kenya Defence Forces has now taken over.

The Nation has learnt that the former President and his aide acquired the land in Roysambu, Nairobi, in 1992 using a company that had not yet been formed, and then sold it to Uchumi, which is currently locked in an ownership tussle with the Kenya Army for the prime property.

SH25 MILLION

According to records, the land was owned by Israeli-born brothers Raphael and Meshumor Jacob who had inherited it from their father Mayer Jacob Samuel.

In 1985, the government tried to acquire the land, but Mr Meshumor moved to court to block the move. Mr Meshumor demanded Sh25 million for the land. The matter was adjourned for negotiations, but information on whether the issue was resolved is unavailable.

Records at the companies registry show that Mr Moi and Mr Kulei own Solio Construction Company Limited -- the firm that sold the 20-acre piece of land to Uchumi in 2001 -- through a web of firms.

The web of companies that Mr Moi and Mr Kulei own have a few things in common. For one, they all operate out of the same office on the ninth floor of Transnational Bank Building, which is also associated with the two.

LAND TRANSACTIONS

The firms also share one postal address. A search in the Kenya Gazette indicates that Mr Moi also uses the same postal address for his personal dealings, some of which are land transactions.

Aside from revealing yet another instance of high-handedness where the retired President did questionable business while still in office, the companies registry records have also shone more light into the extent of wealth amassed by Mr Moi and his close allies like Mr Kulei.

Kasarani Mall Limited, Uchumi's wholly-owned real estate management arm, bought the land from Solio Construction Company on March 21, 2001 for Sh109 million.

Uchumi's annual report for 2002 shows that the retailer lent the money to its subsidiary for acquisition of the land.

How Solio Construction came to own the land remains a mystery, as files at the lands registry containing earlier records of the property went missing.

When Uchumi was fighting off Roysa Community Self Help Group, squatters that laid claim to the land, the National Land Commission (NLC) confirmed that the property's deed file was missing. The NLC itself used a valuation file to gather information on the property.

INSOLVENCY PETITION

Today, Uchumi is in negotiations with the Ministry of Defence in the hope that the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) will exit the property.

Struggling Uchumi has pegged the land as its last chance for resurrection. The retailer, facing an insolvency petition filed by creditors, sold the land to Jewel Complex Limited -- a firm owned by five top officials of Jesus Winners Ministry in Roysambu -- for Sh2.8 billion.

When KDF forcibly took possession of the land in April, Uchumi had already received a Sh300-million deposit from Jewel Complex. "There is positive engagement with the government and we are confident that this matter will be resolved quickly," Uchumi CEO Mohamed Mohamed told the Nation.

Several layers of companies that own Solio have, over the years, made it difficult to determine the faces behind Solio Construction. The firm was registered as a developer intending to build and repair houses, bridges and roads.

Records at the companies' registry show that Solio Construction is owned by Trade World Kenya Limited and Sian Enterprises Limited.

SOLIO CONSTRUCTION

Each of the firms holds 500 shares in Solio Construction. The shares are valued at Sh100 each, giving each shareholder a Sh50,000 stake.

Mr Benjamin Kibet Chepkoit and Trade World Kenya Limited are the only listed directors of Solio Construction.

Details of the firm's bankers, auditors and the company secretary are, however, not available. Jemutai Grace Kipyator Advocates are Solio Construction's lawyers.

The firm, according to the companies' registry, last filed tax returns on December 15, 2006.

The companies' registry records show that Trade World Limited Kenya is owned by Ruby Trust Limited and Sovereign Group Limited, which has just one share valued at Sh1,000.

Sovereign Group has 569,999 shares valued at Sh569.99 million. The latter is an investment arm that Mr Moi and his aides have, over the years, used to own dozens of companies and businesses. Trade World is also registered as an investment holding company that is only excluded from owning banks.

Privatisation Commission CEO Joseph Kipketer Koskey, Mr Kennedy Kipruto Kulei, Ruby Trust Limited and Mr Joshua Chelelgo Kulei are the firm's directors.

Information on Trade World's bankers, auditors and lawyers is not available at the companies' registry. Ms Victoria Nthenya Muya is listed as the company secretary. Information on whether Trade World is up to date with filing tax returns is however not available.

The other Solio Construction shareholder, Sian Enterprises, has a similar ownership structure as Trade World.

COMMISSION AGENT

Sian is registered as an all-round trader, general merchant, wholesaler, retailer, exporter and commission agent.

Ruby Trust has one share valued at Sh20, while Sovereign Group has 30,004,999 shares worth Sh600 million.

Sian Enterprises directors are Mr Joshua Kulei, Mr Joseph Koskey and Chemusian Company Limited.

Information on the firm's tax returns, bankers, auditors and company secretary is not available. Ms Mary Rebecca Ekaya is listed as the firm's lawyer.

Sovereign Group, which is a director of Trade World Kenya, also owns several businesses across several sectors that Mr Moi and Mr Kulei co-own.

In the agribusiness sector, Sovereign owns Sian Roses and Kenya Bixa Limited. It also owns Nakuru's Merica Hotel, ICT firms Kenyaweb.com and Mobile World, security firm 911, Regent Group East Africa, Afribridge Trade Exports Limited, Siginon Group and mining firm ADIL.

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