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Equity Bank boss caught up in fight over city property

The firm, Mount Pleasant Ltd, has dragged the banker to court accusing him of trespass and using the police for an alleged forced entry.

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Equity Bank boss caught up in fight over city property www.bamcos.co.ke
Equity Group MD and CEO and chair Health Committee, Kenya Covid-19 Fund, Dr. James Mwangi. [Wilberforce Okwiri]

Equity Bank Chief Executive James Mwangi is embroiled in a court battle with a private company over a property in Muthaiga, Nairobi County.

The firm, Mount Pleasant Ltd, has dragged the banker to court accusing him of trespass and using the police for an alleged forced entry.

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Documents filed before Nairobi’s Environment and Lands Court and seen by The Standard show that Mr. Mwangi and Mount Pleasant Director Anverali Amershi are both laying claim to the property registered under Land Reference No 214/20/2.

Mr. Karmali claims he bought the three-acre land from former finance minister Arthur Magugu and his wife Margaret Wairimu at Sh130 million on July 21, 2006.

According to the suit, the Magugus had used the property to secure an Sh10.5 million loan from the National Bank of Kenya back in 1987 for a company named MDC Holdings Ltd. They allegedly bought the land in 1982.

Karmali claims that MDC defaulted on the loan after which NBK sued it, seeking to recover the debt and interest which had accrued for 10 years.

“The suit was wholly compromised by way of consent recorded in court by Justice Aaron Ringera on October 16, 2002, ordering the properties be sold by way of a private treaty on such terms to be negotiated and agreed by the parties,” Karmali claims in his papers filed in July this year.

He says that he and the Magugus agreed that he would pay Sh5 million for the execution of the sale agreement and an additional Sh8 million rates to the defunct Nairobi City Council. Mount Pleasant was to pay the bank Sh75 million to offset the loan and the Magugus were to get Sh42 million.

The former minister and NBK are claimed to have renegotiated the amount to be paid and the final figure released to NBK ended up being Sh90 million.

Karmali says Magugu had started to subdivide the property into two – LR No 214/20/2/1 and LR No 214/20/2/2 but the plan fell by the wayside. He says his firm wrote to the Commissioner of Surveys in 2008 seeking to cancel the subdivision.

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He however did not pursue the same to the end.

Court documents filed by Kuria Rimui and Kamau (KRK) advocates indicate that sometime in 2010, strangers visited the property requesting to view it but Mount Pleasant informed them it had no interest in disposing of the land.

Three years on in 2013, Mount Pleasant guards were arrested after one John Birech filed an encroachment complaint that the company had encroached on LR No 214/20/2/1 and LR No 214/20/2/2. Birech was subsequently charged with forgery but the court acquitted him on July 5, 2019, after finding that the prosecution had failed to prove its case against him.

Meanwhile, there was a separate case between him and Mount Pleasant before the lands court. Mount Plesant had sued him and he allegedly admitted that he had no interest in the land. Karmali says that sometime in 2015 his firm did a search but could not trace LR No 214/20/2/1. He was advised to file a missing file complaint.

A year later he was allegedly issued with a certificate confirming his company was the registered owner.

The businessman says that he was informed that Mwangi and another respondent named Jane Wangui Mundia had also shown up with a certificate showing they were the registered owners of the subdivided properties.

He claims that upon investigations, Mount Pleasant established that the two allegedly bought the land at Sh306 million in 2013.

Tampered with

An inspection of the register of the title is said to show that the title to the subdivided properties was surrendered to the Registrar of Title and amalgamated into one parcel of land now known as LR 214/832.

“This is astonishing because the plaintiff (Mount Pleasant) had never surrendered the titles to the properties and still holds the original conveyance of the properties and has no intention to surrender the properties or the titles,” the firm’s lawyer James Rimui argues.

Karmali claims the land register was tampered with to erase all evidence of any successive owners of the contested land.

Karmali claims that on June 15, 2020, Mwangi went to the contested land with police officers, kicked out the guards, and installed his own.  He now wants the court to order the billionaire out. The Equity Bank boss has not yet replied to the claims.

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