News 2008


Governmental land grabbing: Squatters to get Criticos’ land



Publication Date: 3/8/2008

The Government has cleared the way for the purchase of 15,000 acres of land belonging to former MP Basil Criticos in Taveta District to resettle squatters.

Solicitor-general Wanjuki Muchemi has written to National Bank of Kenya, advising them that they are at liberty to accept payment for the land from Settlement Fund Trustee (SFT) against the objections of Mr Criticos.

In a letter to the Lands PS dated February 14, 2008, Mr Muchemi said that after perusing High Court files it had emerged that Mr Criticos had not filed any court injunction to stop National Bank of Kenya from receiving money for the purchase of the land. The land was charged to the bank after Mr Criticos failed to service Sh20 million loaned to him before he went into self-imposed exile in 2001.

In the letter, Mr Muchemi says in part: “On perusal of the court files it is our considered view that there are no court orders to restrain the National Bank of Kenya from receiving or accepting any monies or other consideration for the sale or transfer of LR 5865/2 Taveta.”

Mr Muchemi further said the original title was in the custody of SFT as the property was transferred in September last year and the only step remaining in the transaction was payment of purchase by the Ministry of Lands.

Mr Criticos on Friday came out fighting, saying that the Government was being unfair to him because the transfer was done without his consent. He said the process was politically motivated and claimed that the action by the solicitor-general was unlawful.

Speaking on the phone, the former MP said he had filed a court injunction restraining the bank from receiving any money from the Government “and that was why the process was halted”.

“I have on several occasions negotiated with the bank, pleading with them to take Sh63 million but they have remained adamant,” he said.

The Government has allegedly paid Sh55 million to the SFT to purchase land belonging to the former controversial Taveta MP.

Mr Criticos insisted that the land transaction was done “behind closed doors” despite a court order barring the Government from paying the money to the SFT issued last year by the High court in Nairobi.

A letter from Criticos’ lawyer Pheroze Nowrojee dated February 19 this year to the director of SFT and obtained by the Saturday Nation says the court injunction is still in force and any transaction will be null and void.

The lawyer said the High Court had already filed an injunction against SFT not to release any monies in respect of the said sale as it would be a violation of the court orders.

“The SFT have already been enjoined in the above proceedings. If you release any monies while the suits are pending there will be even further violations of the law,” Nowrojee said in his letter.

Mr Criticos said even after he offered to pay the loan with an interest amounting to Sh63 million, the Ministry of Lands last year went ahead and illegally transferred the land without his consent for Sh55 million

Mr Criticos said, according to land valuers sponsored by the bank before the property was offered for sale, it was valued at Sh300 million.

“If my land is worth Sh300 million, there is no reason for the Government to take it at a throw away price unless there is an ulterior motive behind the whole deal,” he said.

Cabinet minister

He accused an unnamed Cabinet minister of allegedly colluding with corrupt Ministry of Lands official “to forcibly wrest the farm” from him.

He said two weeks ago the minister addressed a rally in Taveta Town and told residents that the farm had already been taken by the Government and it would soon be distributed to the landless.

“These are some of the injustices we are expecting the grand coalition government to address for peace to prevail in the country,” he said.

At the same time he claimed that following the minister’s remarks scores of squatters have invaded his farm and started uprooting sisal plants.