Austrians sue law firm Coulson Harney for selling their land


Mr Peter Muthoka, who owns Acceler Global Logistics. PHOTO | FILE

A group of foreign investors has accused six Kenyan businessmen of hijacking their company — Rahil International Limited—and duping a logistics firm owned by billionaire Peter Muthoka into buying a prime piece of land owned by the firm.

Austrian nationals Erich and Torsten Koch, Marcos Roberto Brandalise and their local partner Dhanji Manji Ravji claim they were illegally deregistered as directors and shareholders of Rahil, allegations that have put the companies registry on the spot.

They add that after Benjamin Tarus Kipkorir, David Ritho, Duncan Achar, James Mbugua Njoroge, Jackline Chelangat and Joseph Okoth replaced them as directors in the firm, the Kenyan businessmen sold a piece of land owned by Rahil to Mr Muthoka’s Acceler Global Logistics.

The two Kochs, Mr Brandalise and Mr Ravji, have made the claims in an application seeking to join a suit Acceler has filed against Coulson Harney Advocates and Rahil International to reverse the land deal worth Sh168 million.

Acceler hired Coulson Harney to help it purchase the prime land on Mombasa Road but grew cold feet midway through the deal. It now claims the law firm ignored its instructions to back out of the deal.

“Mr Kipkorir, Mr Ritho, Mr Achar, Mr Njoroge, Ms Chelangat and Mr Okoth have unlawfully and fraudulently held themselves out as directors and shareholders and purported to enter into negotiations, execute a sale agreement and receive monies from Acceler in a bid to dispose of the suit property.

I believe that they have falsified various documents and purported to effect the said changes at the companies registry,” Mr Ravji says.

The new application by the foreign investors has thrown a new twist to the precedent setting case which is also set to define the limits of a professional undertaking (an agreement lawyers representing two parties sign) when it collides with a client’s instructions.

They insist that they have never resigned from Rahil and have never offloaded their shares in the firm.

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Coulson Harney in a response argues that its hands were tied as it had signed a professional undertaking with Rahil’s advocates which compelled it to release the Sh168 million to the logistics firm.

The undertaking required it to pay a 10 per cent deposit to Rahil and remit the balance within seven days.

The law firm adds that it only executed the deal after confirming through the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) that Rahil was the genuine owner of the property.

The two Kochs, Mr Brandalise and Mr Ravji want the six Kenyan businessmen enjoined to the case as defendants, alongside the Companies Registry and the Chief Land Registrar.

They hold that the Companies Registry informed them that the original file pertaining to the shareholding and directorship of Rahil International went missing as far back as March 2010.

“It is therefore imperative that the applicants herein, the Registrar of Companies and the intended defendants are joined to these proceedings for the proper determination of all pertinent issues in this suit to wit: - the directorship of Rahil, the legal representation of Rahil in this suit and the legitimacy of the title document before the court,” Mr Ravji adds.