Court freezes account in Fourways cash row

A bank has been barred from releasing millions of shillings to a businesswoman who is accused of failing to pay her lawyer Sh61.2 million in legal fees.

Mr Justice Jonathan Havelock froze the account of Mrs Nancy Wanja Gatabaki at Equity Bank until a case filed against her by lawyer Ashford Muriuki is heard and determined.

Mr Muriuki defended Mrs Gatabaki, 70, in the Sh30 billion Fourway Junction Housing project in which she was awarded more than Sh725 million.

But Mrs Gatabaki has denied that she owes Mr Muriuki any money in legal fees although she admits that she had engaged him to prosecute the case against her husband, Dr Samuel Gatabaki, Muga Development Ltd and Suraya Property Group, among other companies and banks.

Mr Muriuki claims Mrs Gatabaki signed an agreement that she would pay him Sh61.2 million in legal fees.

But Mrs Gatabaki, in her statement of defence filed in court on Wednesday, claims that she is not aware of the Sh61.2 million legal fees claim.

She says she has already paid Mr Muriuki over Sh20 million for his services.

Mrs Gatabaki says in the statement that she was coerced to sign the legal fees agreement before other clients in the advocate’s office.

She terms the legal fees demanded as “harsh, exorbitant, unreasonable and unconscionable.”

She alleges that Mr Muriuki “misled her to believe that she was bound to pay him an amount equivalent to 10 per cent the value of the property compared to the judgment entered in her favour.”

But Mr Justice Daniel Musinga directed the parties to appear before Justice Havelock to articulate their cases.

Last week, lawyer Cecil Miller, for Suraya Property Group, told the court that so far Mrs Gatabaki had been paid Sh402 million.

The case by Mrs Gatabaki against her husband and others will come up for further directions on Thursday.

Posted on the DAILY NATION - Wednesday, May 23  2012