The raging battle over the multi-billion shilling Njenga Karume estate took a new turn last week after the court stopped the trustees from using funds from the sale of Kachoroba farm unless directed by the court.
High Court judge Roselyn Aburili ruled that any disbursement from the proceeds will be done purely on account of court orders taking the battle between the trustees and Karume’s children a notch higher.
“That there shall henceforth be no more disbursement of the balance of the proceeds of sale of Kachoroba farm thereof until further orders of this court to be given after the consideration of the affidavit of compliance and responses thereto,” she said.
Justice Aburili issued the orders on January 23 after the trustees filed an affidavit containing details of the sale of the said land at Sh214 million and how it has so far been spent.
The Judge further ordered the trustees to appear in court later this month when the case will be mentioned.
Before he succumbed to cancer on February 24, 2012, Karume had put all his wealth under three holding companies to be managed by the Njenga Karume Trust under the trustees. The team of trustees includes George Warieri, Kung’u Gatabaki and Margaret Nduta Kamithi.
The dispute dates back to 2015, when three of Karume’s children – Albert Kigera Karume, Samuel Karume and Lucy Karume – through Nairobi law firm MMC Africa Law, moved to court seeking to replace the trustees.
In 2016, the trustees and the children, by a consent adopted as court order, resolved to sell part of Kachoroba farm for purposes of settling medical expenses of the ailing beneficiaries, maintenance of beneficiaries and to meet education expenses.
Court documents show a troubled estate that is no longer paying its bills. In some instances, the trustees are borrowing from law firms to settle bills, barely six years after they took over management of the multi-million estate.
Last year, for instance, the Karume trust paid Jacaranda Holdings Sh37 million of the sales proceeds to settle PAYE and VAT arrears.
The trustees used Sh4.1 million on education of beneficiaries and Sh8 million on medical expenses of the beneficiaries.
Mr Warieri, who chairs the trust and his co-trustee Mr Gatabaki pocketed Sh19.6 million in responsibility allowances for the period beginning March 2015 to December 2017.
A further Sh17 million went into payment of the trustees’ sitting allowances, which accrues at the rate of Sh100, 000 per sitting.
The trust paid Sh18 million in accountancy fees and professional fees for valuation of the Njenga Karume Trust.
Three law firms were paid Sh29 million in legal fees and monthly retainers while Sh39 million was paid to the beneficiaries as grants.
The Karume children have accused the trustees of neglecting the beneficiaries, failing to settle fees or provide maintenance.
They further accuse the trustees of failing to promote maintenance, education and advancement in life of beneficiaries, which is the sole objective of the trust.
Karume had initially appointed Court of Appeal judge Paul Kihara Kariuki as chairman of the Trust but he resigned shortly after the demise of the former minister.
“After the resignation of Justice Paul Kihara Kariuki as a trustee of the Njenga Karume Trust, the then or existing trustees of the Njenga Karume Trust failed to adhere to the intention and wishes of the founder by refusing to consider any of the beneficiaries of the Trust.