EACC probes Matiang’i link in Sh1.5b Ruaraka land saga

Anti-graft agency evaluating documents to establish whether minister was aware of fraudulent transactions

Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) is scrutinising crucial documents to determine whether Interior Cabinet secretary Fred Matiang’i was aware of the Sh1.5 billion Ruaraka land fraud.

Investigations have zeroed in on how the labyrinthine scam, which kicked off during Matiang’i’s tenure as acting Lands CS and ended with the payment of Sh1.5 billion on his watch at the Education docket.

“We would like to establish whether it was by coincidence that all the transactions were being done during his tenures in the two ministries or whether he was aware and approved them,” a detective privy to the investigations told People Daily yesterday.

On May 21, Matiang’i recorded a statement with EACC from his Harambee House office after detectives came across documents indicating he was “fully aware of the transaction”.

The interest in the Interior CS comes as Afrison Import and Export Ltd managing director Francis Mburu—the key suspect in the scam that saw the government buying its own land—was arrested and interrogated for hours yesterday after his house was searched by Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) and EACC officers and crucial documents connected to the case confiscated.

Detectives are now verifying claims Matiang’i was aware of the fraudulent transactions.    

EACC detectives are investigating whether a company, named by Parliament as Afrison Import Export Ltd, Huelands Ltd—the supposed owners of the land—and officials from the National Treasury and Ministry of Education colluded to compensate Afrison for a land it had surrendered to the government for the building of a public school.

Details have also emerged indicating the officials in the two ministries defied a court order issued by the Environment and Land Court at Milimani (Petition No. 1488 of 2016) regarding the land.

According to the order, petitioners Okiya Omtatah and Nyakina Wycliffe Gisebe were seeking answers on the rightful ownership of the land (LR No.7879/4).

The court ruled in 2016 that the third, fourth and sixth respondents in the case be prohibited from making further payments to the first and second respondents directly or indirectly or through their agents Almasi Ltd in respect of the compensation on the disputed land. 

The first and second respondents in the case were Afrison Export/Import and Huelands Ltd, respectively. The third respondent was Kenya Urban Roads Authority (KURA), the fourth being National Land Commission (NLC) while Lands, Housing and Urban Development was the fifth and the Attorney General the sixth respondent.

The petitioners had alleged violation and infringement of the Constitution and also wanted the court to rule on the correct acreage of land bought for the General Service Unit (GSU) by dint of High Court civil case No. 617 of 2012.

They wanted the court to rule on theft of some 6.7 acres of the GSU land vide fraudulent compulsory acquisition for the Outer Ring Road improvement project. They also sought court guidance on recovery of public money irregularly and unlawfully paid out to Afrison and Huelands for what was termed fraudulent multiple sales of LR No.7879/4 to the government.

But despite the court order halting the payment, documents indicated that Mburu reportedly established another avenue to receive payment by forming Whispering Palms Estate, which still received the Sh1.5 billion despite it not being labelled as owners of the Ruaraka land.

So fast were transactions made in January this year, that it took about a month to have the money paid out contrary to a process that ideally runs for several months and sometimes a year.

Similarly, it has emerged that another company, Champions Kenya Ltd, which acted as the master distributor of the loot was to later receive Sh930 million from the Sh1.5 billion.

NLC chairman Muhammad Swazuri had in a letter Ref No.VAL.1446 of September 13, 2013 written to Matiang’i, then Education CS informing him Afrison was laying claim to the compensation on the said land.

Swazuri said in the letter the landowner had placed a complaint with the commission that the government had been occupying his land for 30 years without compensation.

“The commission has undertaken a ground inspection to verify the complaint and confirmed the existence of Ruaraka Primary and Secondary schools on the quoted land. The complaint has indicated that National government institutions occupy 13.5364 acres,” Swazuri said.

He added, “He has also submitted an independent valuation report as a compensation claim, however, the commission is the legal entity mandated to determine and advise on compensation. This letter is, therefore, to request the Ministry of Education to confirm the status and make arrangements to compensate the landowner to close this outstanding matter.”

The correspondence

In March last year, Matiang’i wrote to Swazuri over the Ruaraka High and Drive Inn Primary Schools, saying the ministry had determined it was necessary to acquire all that piece of land on which the two institutions stood.

“I, therefore, formally request NLC to commence the process leading to the acquisition of the said private land,” Matiang’i wrote.  “The procedure for acquisition is well within your purview and I will urge that you address yourself to this matter as soon as practicable to enable the two government institutions acquire title deeds to the land they currently occupy.”

In a follow-up to Swazuri’s letter, Matiang’i is also said to have written to Basic Education PS Belio Kipsang, asking him to seek legal guidance and secure public interest in the two schools.

According to documents at EACC, Swazuri also reportedly “wrote to Matiang’i confirming the commission was undertaking the legal process and requested the Ministry of Education to deposit Sh3.2 billion to NLC account,” an action that the latter implemented.

Last July, then Attorney General Githu Muigai responded to  Kipsang who had sought legal opinion on compulsory acquisition of LR No.7879/4 for purposes of continued establishment of Ruaraka High and Drive Inn Primary schools.

Legal advice

Githu said both schools are public institutions and it was his office’s advisory that the constitutional requirement of public purpose or interest as a factor in compulsory acquisition of private land is fulfilled. He also said the land had to be acquired for a public purpose or in the public interest and that there should be prompt payment, in full, in compensation to the person.

“By dint of Section 120 of the Land Act, the Commission is required to take possession of the land on the day specified by this notice to the registered proprietor of the land and the registrar and the title shall then be deemed to vest in the National or County governments as the case may be,” Githu advised.

He also said under Section 121 of the Land Act, the commission is required to demand, in writing, the surrender of the title documents to the registrar in the event the title documents had not been delivered by the person who held it.

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