Mbaru sucked into Karen land saga

Investment banker Jimnah Mbaru has been sucked into the controversial Karen land battles over two contradicting statements he issued to investigators.

Mr Mbaru’s statements to the Directorate of Criminal Investigations and the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission complicates the court case involving the 134-acre prime land in Nairobi, which is at the centre of a protracted court battle between companies associated with businessman Horatius Da Gama Rose, former National Social Security Fund managing trustee Jos Konzolo and Ms Carmelina Mburu.

Last year, influential individuals were said to have grabbed parts of the land despite a court order.

It was Mr Da Gama Rose who brought Mr Mbaru into the limelight through his statement to the DCI in July 2014, claiming that the businessman was his nominee when acquiring the land in a twist that could lengthen the court’s quest to determine the real owners of the land are.

“The sale agreement to the land was done between Barclays Bank International Ltd as personal representatives of Arnold Bradley and Jimnah Mwangi Mbaru as my nominee. He was my nominee as I was going to be out of the country,” said Mr Da Gama Rose.

To support the claims, there was a sale agreement dated December 1977 between Barclays Bank and Mr Mbaru showing the paid land price of Sh1,250,000 via three cheques drawn by numbers NS/AB 349947, NS/AB 389880, NS/AB, 401411.

In a different statement, this time to EACC investigators, court documents show, Mr Da Gama Rose paid for the land in one instalment.

And when Mr Mbaru recorded his statement with the DCI on November 20, 2014, he confirmed the name appearing on the sale agreement was his but that he could not remember transacting in the land as a nominee since the document did not bare his signature and that the address was not his.

“I would however state that I knew Mr Da Gama Rose as an advocate in the early 1970s. But I recall that in January 1978, I left Kenya for Switzerland for studies where I was until January 1979,” said Mr Mbaru.

But in another contradictory statement Mr Mbaru gave to the EACC on April 19, 2015, he confirms that he signed the sale agreement with Barclays Bank to purchase the Karen land.

“I did not finally purchase this property in my name but in the name of my assignee Gama Rose or his company,” stated Mbaru.

Mr Da Gama Rose, through his company Muchanga Investments Limited, argued in his claim for the land that he bought it from Barclays Bank for Sh1.2 million.

At the time, the bank was holding the land in trust for its original owner, Arnold Bradley.

Muchanga went to court and has named eight defendants, asking that they be restrained from interfering with its property pending hearing and determination of the case.

But the Barclays’ head of legal affairs Waweru Mathenge claimed on Wednesday that the only records in their possession show the land was transferred in January 1983 but not to Muchanga Limited Company.

“We do not have any record showing that Barclays Bank sold the land to Muchanga Limited or when it was sold so I am unable to confirm the land was transferred to the company.

The only records we have showed the transactions were completed in 1983 but I do not know to whom,” said Mr Mathenge.

However, in a sworn affidavit before the court, dated December 9, 2014 bank official says the land was sold to Da Gama Rose (Investment) limited.

The affidavit sworn on behalf of Barclays Bank as an interested party says that the process of transferring the property and payment for legal fees has been completed as at January 31, 1983 ‘and the file closed on our end’.

According to an affidavit drawn by Iseme Kamau and Maema Advocates the property appears against an entry record recorded on September 21, 1983 in the securities journal.

The name of the customer is indicated as Da Gama Rose (investment) limited.

Court documents show that Da Gama Rose (Investments) limited and Muchanga limited are owned by the same person.

In court on Wednesday, Mr Mathenge confirmed that it was true Mr Bradley had left his estates to be managed by the bank and that they only have records of transferring 4-acres of land to Mr Bradley’s daughter Annette Bradley as per his will.

Mr Mathenge’s testimony that they have no records of who the land was transferred to also puts into question claims by Mr Konzolo’s company Limited claims that they bought the land from one John Mugo Kamau into question.

Also cast in the centre of the dispute was Ms Carmelina Mburu, who claimed the land belonged to her late husband, former Nairobi Provincial Commissioner John Mburu, and that at no time did her husband transfer it to anybody.

Mr Konzolo had sworn that he bought the land from Mr Kamau who allegedly had acquired the land from Mr Bradley, but the bank said they had no records of ever dealing with Mr Kamau in relation to the land.

Mr Da Gama Rose had also disputed Mr Kamau’s ownership of the title, claiming that there was no document showing how he acquired the land or who sold it to him.

Mr Da Gama Rose had indicated in his statement to the DCI that he made payments for purchase of the land through his account held by Barclays Bank but a statement from the bank’s official indicated that the account did not exist.

“I have checked in our system for account number 1404494 and confirm that the account does not exist and even if the account exists and was now docile it still could show on our systems and as such we have no information to give on it,” said Mr Ken Wambugu, a bank official stationed at its investigations branch in his statement to the DCI.

He also doubted the alleged sale agreement between the bank and Mr Jimnah Mbaru, stating that it could not be a genuine document because the bank could not transact on plain paper since the document named a sale agreement does not have a Barclays letterhead.

The DCI investigative report on the Karen land is what Mr Konzolo used to challenge his prosecution — which is separate from the ongoing ownership dispute — over the Karen land, with the ruling scheduled for October 30.

Mr Konzolo was charged alongside senior ministry of Lands officials, including the Cabinet Charity Ngilu.

The others are Sara Njuhi Mwenda, Geoffrey Swanya Birundi, Pauline Wanjiku Gatimu, Mark Muigai Wanderi, Macmilan Mutinda Mutiso and James Mbaluka.

According to the former NSSF boss, the charges preferred against them were improper, misadvised and illegal since the Director of Criminal Investigations had cleared him of any criminality in acquiring the land.

This article was published by the SUNDAY NATION on October 4, 2015