Economy & Politics

Equity Bank’s Mwangi joins USIU’s land battle with Moi

James Mwangi, the Equity Bank Group chief executive. PHOTO | SALATON NJAU
James Mwangi, the Equity Bank Group chief executive. PHOTO | SALATON NJAU 

Equity Bank chief executive James Mwangi has laid claim to the multi-million shilling prime Nairobi land at the centre of a vicious legal battle pitting the United States International University-Africa (USIU-A) against businessman George Kiongera and former President Daniel Arap Moi, adding a new twist to the saga.

Mr Mwangi says in suit papers filed in court that he bought the 20-acre piece of land from Mr Moi in February 2012 for Sh300 million after confirming that the former President legitimately owned it.

The Equity Group CEO filed the suit last Friday against USIU-A, Mr Moi, Mr Kiongera’s Maestro Connections Health Systems Limited, the Chief Lands Registrar, the Director of Survey and Attorney-General Githu Muigai.

Mr Kiongera and USIU-A have since July been fighting a vicious ownership battle in court where the US-based businessman claims to have bought the land from Mr Moi for Sh500 million.

Mr Kiongera has also sued private security firm Riley Services, which had been hired by the USIU-A to guard the land. Mr Mwangi now says he only learnt from press reports that Mr Kiongera and USIU-A had both laid claim to the piece of land he paid Sh300 million for in 2012.

Court papers show that Mr Moi was represented in the transaction by businessman Andrew Sunkuli. Mr Mwangi says he bought the property through his company, Muthaiga Luxury Homes, and has attached the sale agreement and transfer documents with Mr Moi’s signature as evidence in the suit.

“Prior to the purchase, Muthaiga Luxury Homes conducted an official search on the property at the Central Land Registry and ascertained that the same was owned by Mr Moi and was unencumbered thus was available for sale,” Mr Mwangi says in court papers, adding that Muthaiga Luxury Homes purchased the said parcel of land vide a sale agreement dated February 23, 2012.

“The plaintiff paid stamp duty and the transfer in its favour was duly registered. Upon registration of the transfer, Muthaiga Luxury Homes paid the full purchase price of Sh300 million to Mr Moi.”

The Equity Bank CEO is seeking a court order evicting USIU-A and Mr Kiongera from the property, and to declare his Muthaiga Luxury Homes Limited the legitimate owner of the land.

None of the sued parties has responded to the suit.

Justice Lucy Gacheru extended a court order barring any interference with the land by anyone pending the hearing of USIU-A’s suit against Mr Kiongera’s Maestro Connections.

All the three suits pertaining to the contested land will be mentioned on October 5 when Justice Gacheru is expected to issue further directions on whether the cases should be consolidated or determined separately.

The USIU-A in its suit against Maestro insists that Mr Moi sold the land to DPS International in 1988, which in turn sold it to the insurance firm ICEA two years later before the university bought it in 1999. It adds that the land initially had two title deeds that were amalgamated into one parcel.

But Mr Mwangi says the university’s title deed is fraudulent because no document has been provided to prove that Mr Moi surrendered the land in 1988.

He adds that the survey plans his firm has related to the land do not show any amalgamation of the two title deeds that USIU-A claims were merged.

Maestro’s purchase of the land in June has also been challenged, as the Equity Bank CEO says Mr Moi had no proprietary rights over the land at the time the sale is alleged to have occurred.

Mr Kiongera’s lawyer, Duncan Okatch, has in a suit against Riley Services claimed that the US-based businessman bought the land directly from Mr Moi and that the private security firm has been trespassing on the property.

“Mr Moi purportedly obtained a provisional certificate of title on September 17, 2015 on the basis that the original certificate was lost. At the time, Mr Moi had no capacity to apply for and obtain a provisional certificate of title of the suit property, having transferred the same to Muthaiga Luxury Homes and the transfer registered by the Chief Lands Registrar on May 2, 2012,” Mr Mwangi adds.

Mr Mwangi says the then Chief Lands Registrar and officers at the Director of Survey’s office are guilty of mismanagement having processed and issued parallel ownership documents pertaining to the same parcel of land.