Top Lands ministry officials sued over Sh3 billion deal
Top Lands ministry officials have been taken to court in an alleged scandal, where unsuspecting buyers have been duped into purchasing public land in Kiambu county.
Fruit processing firm, Del Monte Ltd, has all along claimed to own the land parcel in question, albeit without producing any ownership documents, such as a letter of allotment, evidence of payment of fees, stamp duty, or certificate of lease.
Documents presented before court by the Kandara Residence Association, who are claiming ownership of the land, indicate that Del Monte has since transferred the land to Ananas Holdings Limited, a privately-owned company, which embarked on sub-division and later sold off the plots.
The association has sued Lands Cabinet Secretary Farida Karoney for allegedly issuing the title deed illegally, knowing well that the said parcel was public land.
Others sued are the Director of Survey, the National Lands Commission, Chief Lands Registrar, Del Monte Ltd, Director of Planning and the Chief Executive for Lands in Kiambu County.
The matter was filed last Wednesday at the Land and Environment court in Thika and a certificate of urgency issued. Hearing has been set for June 24.
The subject land has since been sub-divided into 47 plots, each selling at between Sh60 million and 90 million.
Kandara association states that Ananas Holdings has sold out all the plots, fetching over Sh3 billion.
Documents filed in court show that the transfer of the land is marked as entry number 18, dated February 15, 2010, on the grant document, which has duly been approved by the Ministry of Lands.
Through lawyers Okatch and Partners, the association says it has in its possession a land rates payment receipt dated January 2, 2020, issued by the County Government of Kiambu, indicating that the customer is Del Monte Ltd.
They argue this is incomprehensible because the property was transferred, albeit illegally, to Ananas Holdings in February 2010.
“Our client has embarked on an odious process of obtaining any records in respect of the parcel at Ardhi House and instructively, there is no record of the purported transfer of the land to Ananas Holdings or any records for that matter meaning that the registrar cannot even issue an official search in line with Section 35 of the Land Registration Act, 2012.
Notably, the lease purportedly acquired by Ananas expired on May 1, 2020 but continued to sell the plots to unsuspecting buyers,” states the association.
Kandara association further says that on realisation that land was marked as public, the ministry officials initiated a process of converting it in order to come up with a new LR Number and pave the way for creation of a new title deed under block 14/102.
The group says that original title for LR No.13169 ought to have been surrendered, the process of transfer of the land to Ananas Holdings company ought to have produced agreement for sale, application to the local land control board, consent for transfer, executed by the Commissioner of Lands, payment of stamp duty shown, to complete the process of registration as required by the Land Registration Act.
“Del Monte or Ananas have never produced and official search as required by law,” the association states.
The NLC in a gazette notice issued on March 1, 2019, directed that a resurvey should be done by the Director Survey in conjunction with the county governments of Murang’a and Kiambu to establish if there is any variance between land leased and the land Del Monte occupies.
“Any residue should be given/surrendered to the claimants (Kandara Residence Association) for resettlement and the county governments for public purpose in the ratio of 70:30 respectively,” ruled the commission.
Further, the commission directed, should it be found that there is no residue, then on expiry of the lease a suitable amount of land should be set aside and held in trust by the county governments for purposes of resettlement and public utilities.
The National Assembly Lands Committee also weighed in and recommended that the Director of Survey, Ministry of Lands and Physical Planning resurvey the land held by Del Monte in Murang’a and Kiambu counties.
The committee also directed the Lands Commission to investigate the circumstances under which five parcels that were said to have been surrendered to the government by two companies, namely, Sassa Coffee and Rappit B Limited, were later acquired by Del Monte Kenya Limited.