Equity Bank CEO cites police for bias in Moi land row

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Equity Bank CEO cites police for bias in Moi land row


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Equity Group Holdings PLC, Group Managing Director and CEO Dr James Mwangi. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NMG

Equity Bank chief executive James Mwangi has accused the police of bias by secretly reopening investigations into the ownership of prime land that is associated with former President Daniel arap Moi in Nairobi’s Muthaiga neighbourhood.

Mr Mwangi says the police had cleared him in January 2020 after confirming that his ownership documents were genuine and that he was free to develop the property ‘without interference from any quarter’.

The investigators, he says, have failed to record statements on how he purchased the property from the late President Moi in December 2012 for Sh310 million.

Documents filed before the lands court show that Mr Mwangi and Mount Pleasant Director Anverali Amershi Karmali are both laying claim to the property.

Mr Karmali claims he bought the three-acre parcel from former Finance minister Arthur Magugu and his wife, Margaret Wairimu, at Sh130 million on July 21, 2006.

The Equity Bank CEO says the repeat and secret police investigations are aimed at tilting the ongoing suit over ownership of the three-acre property.

He has successfully secured a temporary order blocking the Director of Public Prosecutions, Noordin Haji, and the Director of Criminal Investigations, George Kinoti, from conducting fresh investigations.

“It is an abuse of power, irrational and unreasonable for the 1st respondent (DCI) to purport to conduct investigations on a matter whose investigations were already concluded and fail to give notice to the petitioners,” Mr Mwangi told the court.

Equity Bank CEO says he petitioned court to stop the one-sided investigations after the police failed to grant him a hearing.

Mr Karmali moved to court in 2020 seeking eviction of Mr Mwangi from the land, terming him a trespasser.

The businessman through his company, Mount Pleasant, claims to have in July 2016 purchased the land from Mr Magugu, who had allegedly acquired the property from former President Moi.

The trader alleges that the records at the land registry were altered, making it difficult to trace successive owners of the contested parcel.

But Mr Mwangi says Mr Magugu’s ownership documents are not genuine because the land initially belonged to Mr Moi.

He reckons that Mr Karmali’s testimony is not clear because at one point it claims that Mr Magugu took over the land through adverse possession or where a non-owner occupant of a piece of land gains title and at the same time that the former minister acquired the property from Mr Moi.

Mr Mwangi said he purchased two parcels- L.R No.214/20/2 and 214/20/1/1 from the former President on December 19, 2012 for Sh320 million.

The land parcels were placed under his name in March 2013.

“That I visited the late President Moi to officially albeit informally confirm that the sale of the suit property had proceeded and concluded smoothly… We had a very pleasant evening with the [former] President discussing the salient aspects of the suit properties and our plans to develop the same,” Mr Mwangi says in court documents.

“Significantly, our purchase of the subject property was preceded by assiduous due diligence which established that indeed … the late President Moi was the duly registered proprietor of the said property after which the 2nd defendant and I applied for amalgamation of the two parcels of land, which was conducted with due regard to the due process of law.”

Mr Mwangi made payments in three tranches, including a deposit of Sh32 million in February 2013 and the balance of Sh288.5 million in March 2013 to ABC Bank. He also made a Sh12.8 million stamp duty payment.

The Equity Bank CEO says the Ministry of Land informed him in January 2020, through Muthaiga police, that his ownership documents were genuine.

“I, therefore, confirm to you that from my office, I am satisfied that the parcel as per the documents and confirmation from the Principal Secretary Lands registrar offices, the land is owned by your client James Njuguna Mwangi and Jane Wangui Mundia,” the Muthaiga police station boss reportedly said.

“Your client is at liberty to do any development that he might intend to do on the land without any interference from any other quarter.”

Mr Mwangi said the fresh investigation was opaque and in violation of his rights. He says investigations should be conducted in a transparent and accountable manner, especially when it relates to property ownership.

He said he was apprehensive that unless the court stops the investigations, there was a real likelihood that the DCI would conclude the probe in violation of due process and abuse of the power to investigate crimes.

The Equity Bank CEO said he occupied the land peacefully until April 2019 when unknown persons tried to forcibly enter and evict him.

He reported the matter at Muthaiga Police Station and the police commenced a probe into acts of trespass.

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