Kinoti seeks to bar killers from victim’s wealth

Friday, September 20th, 2019 06:00 |
Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) boss George Kinoti. Photo/FILE

The Director of Criminal Investigations (DCI) has rattled lawyers and suspects accused of murder by flagging a section of the law which bars killers from inheriting their victim’s property.

In a grim reminder that will likely see those who plan to kill for wealth think twice, DCI boss George Kinoti said police will henceforth seek to enforce a section of the Succession Act which has been in existence for the last 39 years. He accused lawyers of applying the statute selectively in favour of their clients.

Section 96 (1) of the Law of Succession Act reads: “Notwithstanding any other provision of this Act, a person who, while sane, murders another person, shall not be entitled directly or indirectly to any share in the estate of the murdered person.” 

Saying it was time the law on succession was applied holistically, Kinoti said: “There is nothing new that we are saying. We are moving to enforce an existing law. The fact that people have been ignorant of the law does not make it null and void. It’s a pity that lawyers in the country have been applying this law selectively,” Kinoti told People Daily from Tanzania.

Shares beneficiaries

The Act, which appears not to have been applied fully, further notes that beneficiaries of shares in estates of murdered persons shall be viewed as though their killers died immediately before the murdered person.

“For the purpose of this section the conviction of a person in criminal proceedings of the crime of murder shall be sufficient evidence of the fact that the person so convicted committed the murder,” reads Section 96 (2) of the Act.

This means that, if a husband or wife is convicted of killing their partner, they will not be entitled to the property left behind by the deceased because they will be deemed to have died before committing the crime.

Mental assessment is a requirement for murder trials, with suspects  required to undergo a psychiatric test before pleading to the charges to ascertain whether they are of sound mind, and whether the act committed was deliberate. 

The Succession Act debate appears to be a hot potato as nearly all the lawyers we reached out for comment declined to speak on record, with some saying they are handling cases that fit the circumstances while others chose not to speak at all.

However, Law Society of Kenya (LSK) President Allen Gichuhi note that the said section of succession law has been in existence for a long time, and only applies where one has been convicted, and where there is no pending appeal because of the presumption of innocence until one is proven guilty.

“That is the law and there is no shortcut about it. If you are found guilty of murder, you cannot benefit from your victims’ estate,” he said but acknowledged that not many people are aware of the provision.

Cases pending in court where suspects have been accused of killing their spouses with an eye on property include that of Gladys Wambui, who is facing a murder trial in Nakuru after she was accused of paying Sh1.2 million to people to kill her husband, businessman Julius Kimani Mathu in December 2017.

In Kerugoya, Kirinyaga county, Ladia Wakuthii is accused of murdering her husband Francis Mbogo alias Kasarani, who until his death had interest in roads and construction industry. He left behind a vast business empire. Wakuthii was the businessman’s second wife.

Paul Mwangi, a human rights activist who has been pursuing succession cases, most of them involving alleged murder by relatives, said although the law is clear in such circumstances, it has never been fully applied, thanks to shoddy investigations by the police and alleged corruption in the courts.

According to Mwangi, the director of Community Bridge organisation, for the succession law to have full meaning, whenever a suspect is charged with killing a relative with a motive of taking over property, the estate should be safeguarded until the matter is concluded in court.

“Often we have seen suspects transacting property belonging to people they are accused of killing, after colluding with judicial officers and people in the Lands ministry even before the cases are determined. We need a structure where property of the deceased person is protected so that in case the suspect is convicted, they will not have benefitted from it,” Mwangi said.

Fresh controversy

One of the cases Mwangi is following is where relatives allegedly killed their step-mother and her son in Kiambu county, only to kick out the widow and children in order to take over the multimillion shilling estate.

Kinoti’s surprise disclosure came on a day that a city lawyer appeared to stoke fresh controversy over the estate of Dutch golf tycoon Tob Cohen, with an announcement that he was set to disclose the deceased’s Will this morning.

Kirundi and Company Advocates wrote to lawyer Philip Murgor, who represents Cohen’s widow Sarah Wairimu, and to Cohen’s sister Gabrielle van Straten, asking them to attend the opening of the Will that is scheduled for this morning at a Nairobi hotel.

But a furious Murgor fired back a letter questioning Kirundi’s motive in opening a Will whose contents have already been published by a local newspaper, stating that Cohen had granted his sister the Sh400 million Kitisuru home.

“Our client is well aware, that any purported Wills must be proved through an appropriate application to the High Court for probate to determine their validity. In the circumstances, we have been instructed not to attend to the proposed opening of the Will,” Murgor wrote.

Wairimu has questioned the authenticity of the said Will, while directing her lawyer to keep off from the planned opening.

“It is evident that the confidentiality of the said Will has severely been compromised, based on the newspaper reports,” Murgor said.

“In the meantime, we are instructed to request you to let us have details of any purported or ongoing transactions being handled by yourself, in relation to our client’s matrimonial home, at Farasi Lane, Mugumoini Close, in Nairobi, LR No. 2951/, including the confirmation of your instructions to include our client as co-owner of the said property.” 

According to Murgor, the couple’s home in Kitisuru was co-owned by Wairimu and her husband, whom she is accused of killing. 

The decision on the Will now threatens to split the parties in the Cohen case, whose lawyers had earlier announced they had agreed to have him buried at the Jewish Cemetery, Nairobi, on Monday See separate story.

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