The wrangles began a month ago when EACC chairman Mumo Matemu tried unsuccessfully to suspend Mubea. Matemu accused Mubea of aiding a local company known as Tegus Limited to illegally take over Integrity Centre. Tegus informed EACC early last year that it will not renew its lease which expires on June 31 this year as a result of underhand dealings by some senior EACC staff.
The company says that EACC vice-chairperson, Irene Keino, and an employee known as Kipsang Sambai attempted to forge the title deed to the land on which the building stands.
However, by deftly manipulating the pliant media, EACC has managed to successfully project itself as the innocent victim of an avaricious businessman. But the truth, as it going to be set out in detail in this article, is exactly the opposite. The fraudsters in this case are the lady and gentlemen of EACC.
In fact, the EACC staff, together with Gideon Moi and a cabinet secretary, is the authors of the current contrived storm about Integrity Centreâ€™s ownership.
The story of Integrity Centre from its beginning up to this moment is that of unbridled greed, betrayal of close family loyalties and run-away corruption at the anti-graft agency.
It is a tale that goes back 18 years ago when Trade Bank, one of the phony banks that were common during President Moiâ€™s regime collapsed with millions of depositorsâ€™ money.
Trade Bank was founded in 1980s by two brothers, Alnoor Kassam and Iqbal Kassam, Kenyans of Indian origin but now fugitives in Canada. At that time, it was revolutionary in its recognition of the economic potential of the millions of unbanked low class Kenyans. In many ways, it was the precursor to todayâ€™s Equity Bank and indeed the current Equity CEO James Mwangi was the finance manager at the bank.
Although they were the brains behind the bankâ€™s revolutionary business model, the two brothers were largely inactive in the running of the bankâ€™s day-to-day affairs.
Ian Rayner, the managing director and Gad Zeevi, a director and a business front for Biwott, a powerful minister in the Moi regime, ran the daily operations of the bank. Biwott was also a major shareholder. In time, the two Kassam brothers started consolidating the bank by buying out other shareholders and it was while they were at it that they made a grave error of judgment that cost them their investment.
Day Biwott took all the cash from the bank vaults.
One of the people Kassam bought out was Zeevi, but during the purchase of his shares, he disclosed that he had forced Trade Bank to lend Sh400 million to a company owned by Biwott.
The problem is that the money was higher than the Sh300 million Trade Bank had in its accounts. The money was loaned to HZ Ltd, Biwottâ€™s construction company.
The loan was for the construction of an ultra-modern commercial property in Kilimani area and it was named after Zeeviâ€™s daughter.
Kassam immediately reported the fraud to Central Bank of Kenya and embarked on attempts to compel HZ to pay up. He would realize the folly of his move much later.
HZ had no intentions of paying. Once when he tried to attach the property, HZ contracted a valuer who considerably raised the value of the property.
The valuer put the price of the building at Sh900 million meaning that any attempts to sell it would mean that Trade Bank would still have to pay HZ Sh500 million.
At the same time, Moiâ€™s unforgiving political machinery set in motion a process to have Kassam bothers arrested and charged with fraud.
With the dreaded Special Branch on their trail, they drove towards Namanga border on to Tanzania, not as businessmen, but as fugitives and let their investment crumble.
Exactly 18 years this month (on April 15, 1993), Trade Bank was liquidated. At the time of its collapse it had a huge overdraft of more than Sh300 million it owed to the Central Bank of Kenya.
CBK moved in to recover its money and one of the assets it laid its hands on was Trade Bank Centre which belonged to Biwott-who owned and owed Trade Bank.
CBKâ€™s Deposit Protection Fund auctioned the building, but unwilling to let go of such a prime asset, Moi
and Biwott decided to buy it back secretly.
For this purpose, they formed Revack Limited on May 25, 1994, which bought back the building by emerging the top bidders at a price of Sh304 million at the fall of the hammer.
At first, Moi and Biwott agreed to purchase the building in cash on 50-50 basis. Biwott paid his half of the amountâ€” Sh152 million â€” soon after.
Moi gave the cash for his share to his youngest and beloved son Gideon, but the ever cunning Gideon never paid a cent. He ate it all. Seeing that he was running late of Central Bankâ€™s deadlines and Moi reluctant to fork out more cash, Biwott got a loan of Sh152 million in November 1994 from Trust Bank to pay the balance.
However in September 1998 Trust Bank was put under statutory management by CBK. It crumbled under the weight of mismanagement and blatant theft by its directors, brothers Ajay Shah and Praful Shah.
Trust Bank wound up in August 2001 and CBK moved in to recover the money it had loaned the bank by taking over its assets. In the audits that followed, it was discovered by the DPFB that Ajay Shah had secretly siphoned from the bank Sh152 million â€” the same amount as Biwott had borrowed- and secretly marked it down as a loan to Revack.
In a historic ruling last year the High Court found that the two brothers were culpable of defrauding their customers and ordered them to pay Sh1.5 billion.
However, DPFB also discovered that Biwott had not been servicing his loan to Trust Bank and as a result the amount he owed the bank had accumulated to over Sh480 million.
For the second time, CBK confiscated Trade Bank Centre; now renamed Integrity Centre after the anti-corruption body moved its offices there.
However this time, rather than sell it, the DPFB reached an agreement with Biwott to have the rent from the building repay the loan. CBK also realized that the lease to the Integrity Centre land was about to expire and in November 2003 Oraro and Company Advocates, acting for the DPFB, requested the ministry of Lands to extend it. This was eventually done in 2010.
In 2010, Biwott also got in touch with DPFB to settle his debt and redeem the building. Up to that time, the DPFB had collected up to Sh360 million in rents from the building.
Enter Keino and the tale of expired lease.
In 2013 he came to agreement with DPFB to pay extra Sh115 million in cash he still owed to CBK on top of the amount collected from the rent.
In total, Biwott paid out in excess of Sh700 million to redeem the building from CBK during the two periods it had held it.
It was at this stage, in 2013, that EACC was first brought in to the picture of what was going on- a move
that sowed the seeds of the plan to defraud Biwott.
The DPFB in May 2013 sought the help of EACC to push one of Revackâ€™s trustees, Samvir Trustees, to surrender a share certificate for 2,500 shares.
The Trustees were reluctant to surrender the shares after Ajay Shah told them they were his. When EACC came in to the picture, Samvir relented and the matter ended there.
However, by now a file on Revack existed in EACCâ€™s offices and its unscrupulous officers would shamelessly turn to it time and again in their futile attempts to grab the building.
After settling his dues, CBK handed over the property to Biwott but given the negative image associated with Revack, he decided transfer the property to Tegus Ltd, a company owned by his lawyer. At the time of its transfer from Revack to Tegus in 2013, the property was valued at Sh450 million for the purposes of paying KRA stamp duty.
As a common practice, he appointed his lawyer Ahmed Adan, through his company Watuwatu Limited, as his trustee in Tegus Limited.
However when Gideon learned through proxies that Biwott had redeemed the building, he laid a claim to 50 per cent ownership. But he was just testing the waters.
Afraid of bringing back the memories of the fraud he committed on his father in 1994, he categorically denied having any interest in the property when he met with an angry Biwott.
â€œGideonâ€™s main aim was not really that he wanted a stake in the building, because in his hearts of hearts he knew he had none, but his interest was to extort Biwott,â€ said a source who knows the intrigues about the buildingâ€™s ownership.
The matter should have ended there but Gideon, ever the opportunist and the consummate extortionist, urged EACCâ€™s Sambai and Irene to continue prodding and harassing Biwott.
According to a well-placed source, sometime in late 2013 year, Irene asked Stephen Kipkenda, Biwottâ€™s lawyer, for a meeting over breakfast at the Laico Regency hotel.
Over breakfast, Irene informed Kipkenda that EACC was investigating the ownership of Integrity Centre and as such, Mzee (Biwott) should do â€œsomethingâ€ to have the case killed. In other words, Irene, the Ugandan-born adopted daughter of Kenyaâ€™s all time greater runner Kipchoge Keino, was asking for a bribe to have the case closed.
Kipkenda called her bluff. He told her that there would be no need for â€œsomethingâ€ since the ownership of the building was clean and in order. Kipkenda challenged her to talk to Biwott directly if she felt that their case was strong enough. She left the meeting a disappointed woman, but not entirely deterred.
In March 2014, Mr. Kipkenda complained about the unethical conduct of the two officers in a letter to the EACC CEO Halakhe Waqo who never took any action. After getting no response, Tegus informed EACC in a letter dated April 17, 2014 that it was not intent on renewing its lease.
â€œOur client has learnt that the said Kipsang is working under the direct supervision of one of the commissioners by the name Irene Keino in trying to forge our clientâ€™s documents in teamwork with other fraudsters,â€ read Kipkendaâ€™s letter
Furthermore, he also complained of the EACCâ€™s phony investigations to the director of criminal investigations Ndegwa Muhoro in December 2014. Matemu only replied to the complaints almost a year later on February 27, 2015 when the infighting at the commission was well under way.
At the urging and direction of Gideon, Irene and Sambai changed tack after their initial plan hit a dead end. They turned to the ministry of Lands. At the ministry of Lands, fraudsters and professional conmen salivated at a list of prime property whose leases were about to expire.
Their list had not been updated in a while and it showed that the lease to the plot Land Reference Number 209/1069 where Integrity Centre stands was expiring. Unknown to them, Central Bank had requested the landâ€™s lease extended in March 2010 in order to recover its money from Revack. The DPFB was the custodian of the title deed. The building stands on a 1.204 acre piece of land that is estimated to be worth Sh1.2 billion. When Sambai inquired about it, the sharks at Lands informed him that its lease had expired. Bingo!
James Mbaluka, the personal assistant to the high priestess of corruption at the ministry, Cabinet Secretary Charity Ngilu, informed her of the new developments.
She promptly telephoned Matemu and informed him that the lease on the land Integrity Centre stands had expired. The smell of money was in the air!
Up to that point in time, Matemu and Keino were not seeing eye-to-eye and in fact the latter had been actively sabotaging and badmouthing her boss to whoever cared to listen.
But for once, they set aside their differences for a common purpose: wresting control of the building by whatever means possible and selling it. Ngilu ordered the Lands Registrar, the ever-crafty Sarah Mwenda who is currently on suspension over separate corruption allegations, to manufacture a new title deed for the property as they shopped for a buyer.
Sarah is the lady who recently locked herself in her office at Ardhi House and was caught illegally signing title deeds at a time she was on suspension. She featured heavily in the secret list handed over to President Kenyatta by EACC CEO Waqo and was forced to step aside with other state officials including her boss, Ngilu.
Nonetheless, they might have succeeded in their scheme but their nefarious scheme came to light when one of their sidekicks who operate from Ardhi House told them that Abdi Nassir, the director of Hass Petroleum, was shopping for a building to buy for his expanding operations. The cartels approached him and told him that they would sell him the building for Sh2.1 billion. Then EACC would lease it from him.
Nassir was obviously pleased with prospect of owning such a strategically located building, but he had the presence of mind to ask his lawyer, Ahmed Adan, for a second opinion.
Adan, a tall, lanky lawyer who is a partner in Wetangula, Adan and Makokha Company Advocates, was bemused. He informed Nassir that the building is listed under his name. He informed him that he is holding in trust of his client, Biwott. He however told Nassir to play along with the conmanâ€™s plan to get more incriminating material.
When the plan hit a dead end, the honchos at the ministry of Lands ran for the hills and left the three EACC officials to sort out their mess. Perhaps suspecting that the story would leak out sooner or later, Matemu decided to go for a pre-emptive strike by leaking to the media Tegusâ€™ letter terminating EACCâ€™s lease.
He claimed that â€œcorruption was fighting backâ€ and attempted to link the lease issue to the Anglo Leasing probe, the â€œchickengateâ€ scandal and so forth. Admittedly, it was a piece of clever obfuscation by Matemu. For a moment he muddied the waters and the truth might have been lost forever.
Credit: The Kenyan Editor