Kenya: Mystery of Weston Hotel's Shared Property Number

2 September 2019

The property number of the land on which Deputy President William Ruto's Weston Hotel is built was used to irregularly acquire a 2.7-acre parcel of land in Westlands, Nairobi.

The DP's close friend and business associate, Mr Patrick Osero, used the Interim Reference (IR) number (usually issued by the Director of Survey when the land is mapped out before the title is issued) to acquire another prime property.

As Mr Ruto prepared to defend his ownership of the Weston land in April last year, Justice Kossy Bor was delivering a judgment on the Westlands property, which had been in court for 12 years.

She ruled that Mr Osero's Pridegrove Investments Limited irregularly acquired the land using an I.R. number that had already been allocated to the Weston land.

Mr Osero and politician-cum-businessman Patrick Omani Nyamweya each own half of the firm's 5,000 shares.

DEED SURRENDERED

Southfork Investments had sued Mr Osero's Pridegrove Investments on December 2006, seeking to recover the land.

Southfork bought the land from Sky Properties Limited in 1994 for Sh2 million, but was hesitant to develop it because the government lease was to expire just six years later.

The firm's attempts to renew the lease almost saw it lose the 2.7 acre property, whose current value is in excess of Sh1.3 billion.

When Southfork surrendered its title deed to the Lands commissioner during its application for a government lease extension, a new ownership document was created and registered to Pridegrove.

But the IR number, 89671, that appeared on Pridegrove's title deed had already been allocated to another piece of land on Lang'ata Road, then owned by Priority Limited but currently hosting Weston Hotel.

LAND SUBDIVIDED

Interestingly, Pridegrove acquired the Westlands property in 2005, five years before the company was incorporated.

Records at the companies' registry seen by the Nation indicate that Pridegrove Investments Limited was formed on June 6, 2010.

During the hearing, the Commissioner for Lands said the land was originally part of a 5.6 acre block, which was subdivided, and argued that the disputed 2.7 acres should not have been allocated to anyone.

But Justice Bor ruled that during Southfork's application for lease extension, the open-space issue did not arise, so it would be unfair to now alienate it as such.

She added that the Commissioner for lands should have asked the National Land Commission to revoke Southfork's title deed if it had been issued irregularly.

Mr Nyamweya is in a separate suit fighting Eka Hotel on Mombasa Road over land through his Samco Holdings.

LEASE EXTENSION

Justice Elijah Obaga has issued temporary orders barring both parties in that case from developing the land until the court resolves the ownership row.

Mr Osero and Mr Nyamweya are co-directors, alongside Flowers of Kenya Limited.

Southfork is owned by two Kenyans -- Dinesh Kapurchand Shah (25 per cent cent), Satish Kapurchand Shah (25 per cent) -- and Briton Tushar Harilal Shah (50 per cent).

City Hall wrote to Southfork in 1998 indicating that the lease would be extended.

But on June 2005, advertisements in a local daily indicated that Pridegrove was selling the land in parcels of an eighth of an acre at Sh2.8 million.

Notably, in 2003, one year after Southfork had paid all the requisite fees to City Hall, and as the firm awaited the approval of its application, the Commissioner for Lands wrote to Nairobi's Director of City Planning to object to the government lease extension.

Pridegrove denied grabbing Southfork's land. Mr Osero's firm claimed that its land was different from the parcel Southfork had referred to in the court papers.

TITLE DEED DISOWNED

But his firm did not appear in court for the hearing of the case.

The deed plan on Pridegrove's title deed however sold out the attempted grab. A deed plan shows intended use and is signed by the Director of Survey.

Pridegrove's deed plan was the same as the one Southfork had surrendered to the Lands commissioner while applying for a lease extension.

City Hall, the Commissioner for Lands and the Registrar of Titles all denied issuing Pridegrove with a title deed for the land.

City Hall further confirmed that the land had only one previous owner, Sky Properties, which legally transferred it to Southfork in 1994.

"I.R. 89671 is registered against L.R. No. 209/14372 measuring 0.7733 hectares (1.7 acres), which title is held by Weston Hotel Limited for a term of 99 years with effect from January 1998.

"There were no records at the lands office pertaining to Pridegrove's title. The deed plan annexed to Pridegrove's title was disowned by the director of survey," City Hall said in its response to the suit.

LAND RECOVERY

Justice Bor ruled that Southfork had proved its case and allowed the firm to repossess the prime property.

Southfork had specified that it was not interested in financial compensation for the grab, but simply wanted its property back.

While it has a been established that Weston's land was grabbed from the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority in 2002, Mr Ruto's establishment is in court fighting the KCAA's attempts to recover the prime property.

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