Three children of late tycoon Njenga Karume have lost a fight to have trustees of his multi-billion shilling estate committed to jail for disregarding a court order.
Justice Alfred Mabeya declined to allow Lucy Wanjiru Karume, Samuel Wanjema Karume and Albert Kigera Karume to proceed with the contempt of court case, saying that the application was premature and should not stop hearing of the main dispute.
“Allegations of contempt are serious as they touch on the integrity of a court order. I am, however, not satisfied with their explanation why they took too long to bring the court’s attention to an alleged disobeying of an order,” ruled Justice Mabeya.
According to the judge, a party who has benefited from a court order should have been diligent enough to safeguard the order instead of waiting until the last minute when the real dispute over control of the Karume business empire was scheduled for hearing.
The decision was a win for the trustees and Mr Karume’s other children opposing their siblings’ numerous court cases seeking control of the billionaire’s wealth spread across the country.
Lucy, Samuel and Albert wanted the trustees George Ngugi, Kun’gu Gatabaki, Margaret Nduta and Killian Lugwe committed to civil jail for allegedly authorising demolition of Pizza Garden despite a court order stopping any dealings in the property.
Their application was opposed by the trustees, the Njenga Karume Trust and their siblings who submitted that the contempt suit was intended to scuttle the speedy hearing and conclusion of the dispute.
They asked the judge to disregard the contempt suit and instead give preference to their application that challenged the court orders barring the trustees from interfering with operations of Pizza Garden.
Justice Mabeya ruled that the suit challenging the court orders was important and that he could proceed without authority.
“If a court exercises powers it does not have, all its decisions will be useless. Any order made without jurisdiction is null and void. I find the applications questioning this court’s jurisdiction outweighs the application for contempt,” ruled justice Mabeya.
Justice Joseph Sergon in March issued orders restraining the trustees from selling, transferring, or disposing immovable properties held under the Njenga Karume Trust or dealing with Pizza Garden following an application by the three siblings.
Lucy, Samuel and Albert accused the trustees of operating in an opaque manner, neglecting them, failing to pay school fees for Mr Karume’s grandchildren as well as medical bills. They wanted the trustees removed for allegedly running down the businesses.
The trustees however contend that the children want to defy their father’s will, and that the businesses’ financial misfortunes began prior to Mr Karume’s death.
They further hold that they are renovating Pizza Garden and not demolishing it, contrary to the children’s claims. The trustees say the renovations were part of Mr Karume’s plans.
Mr Karume’s vast empire includes vast land, Cianda House in Nairobi, several apartments, Jacaranda Hotels in Nairobi and Mombasa, Lake Elementaita Lodge and Village Inn.
Justice Mabeya scheduled the hearing on May 21.