BY SAM ALFAN.
Two directors of Tornado Carriers Limited have been released on a cash bail of 7 million pending hearing and determination of their corruption case.
Shakil Ahmed Khan and and Nazir Ahmed Matabkhan pleaded not guilty before Milimani Anti-Corruption Court Chief Magistrate Lawrence Mugambi.
Magistrate dismissed their application seeking to differ the plea to await decision by Mombasa High Court. In his ruling Mugambi said there was no compelling reason submitted or stay from the Mombasa Court to warrant plea to be differed. “Actually it’s the Mombasa that ordered the accused to appear before me for plea taking”, Mugambi added.
They are accused between January 11, 2017 and December 5,2017 jointly with National Land Commission Chairman Mohammad Swazuri and other officials to commit corruption through fraudulent payment of Kshs. 109,769,363.00 for purported compulsory acquisition of land reference MN/VI/3801 from Tornado Carriers Limited for the Kenya National Highways Authority.
Prosecution further accused Nazir , Shakil and Tornado of jointly , knowingly and fraudulently acquiring public property of Shs. 55,269,363 belonging to the KNHA from the account of the National Lands Commission as purported compulsory acquisition of land for the Mombasa port area road development while knowing that the said property was charged.
Court directed the two to be detained at EACC police station to allow processing.
On April 1, high court issued orders freezing bank accounts belonging two directors and their company for a period of six months pending investigations into allegations over alleged illicit payment of over 106 million made by National Land Commission for compensation for acquisitions of land for expansion of Mombasa southern bypass Kipevu road.
Justice Mumbi Ngugi of High Court Anti-Corruption Division issued orders after Ethics and Anti-corruption Commission filed application under certificate of urgency seeking to prohibit the three namely Asia Akhtar Nazir Ahmed, Tarah Begum Khan and Tornado Carriers Limited, from withdrawing or dealing with said money held At NIC Bank.
“A preservation order is hereby issued prohibiting the respondents (Tornado Carriers Limited, Asia Akhtar Nazir Ahmed and Tarah Begum Khan) jointly and severally, their agents, servants or any other persons from withdrawing , transferring, disposing or in any other way dealing with the funds held in the bank accounts at NIC Bank in the name of Asia Akhtar Nazir Ahmed and in the name of Tarah Begun Khan “, ordered Justice Ngugi.
The learned judge further directed that the said orders shall subsist for a period of six months. She also n certified urgent the application and the commission was ordered to serve the parties.
The orders were issued after the commission filed an application seeking to prohibit the three from withdrawing or dealing with said money pending investigations into allegations of corruption and economic crimes over alleged illicit payment made by National Land Commission in return to facilitate irregular compensation for acquisitions of land for expansion of roads and construction of by- pass on behalf of the Kenya National Highways Authority (KENHA).
According to documents filed in court, preliminary investigations have established that the National Land Commission compulsorily acquired LR. NO MN/VI/3801 and made an award for Sh 109, 769, 363 in favour of the registered owner, M/s Tornado Carriers Limited.
The said award of Sh 109,769,363 was paid in two bank accounts. Tornado Carriers Limited received Sh 55,269,363 in its SBM Bank account while the reminder Sh 54,500,000 was paid to C.W. Chege Advocates and subsequently , the amount deposited in Tornado Carriers Limited account which was later moved to two accounts at NIC Bank in the name of Asia Akhtar Nazir Ahmed at NIC Bank in the name of Tarah Begum Khan.
EACC claims that the amount deposited in C.W Chege Advocates account was distributed or disbursed to officials of the National Land Commission.
The commission has established that the officials of the NLC that are in receipt of the funds disbursed from C.W. Chege Advocates account are, Sh 900,000 to Director valuation and Taxation NLC Salome Ludenyi Munubi, Sh 7 million to Deputy Director, valuation and Taxation NLC , another Sh 7 million to Ag. Director Finance Bernard Cherutich and Sh 3,020,000 to Secretary valuation and Taxation directorate Lilian Keverenge.
“There is reasonable suspicion , in view of the kickbacks to the officials of NLC that the award of 109,769,363 million was vastly inflated and the commission is in pursuit to unearth the circumstances surrounding the award.
The commission said that the preliminary investigations have established that the LR. No. MN/VI/3801, subject matter of the acquisition was vide a charge dated June 30,2005 to Imperial Bank Limited for Sh 9,500,000 and therefore the bank by virtue of section 107(7) of the Land Axt ,2012 has an interest over the parcel of land.
It was further established that the said land has been consolidated with another parcels LR.No. MN/VI+/2364 all belonging to Tornado Carriers Limited and used as security for several financing facilities from Imperial Bank.
” It is established that as at December 31,2018, Tornado Carriers Limited is indebted to the bank to the tune of 137,271828.71,” reads the court documents.
“Preliminary investigations have established that NLC abdicated its duty under section 112 of the Land Act ,2012 to serve a copy of notice of enquiry upon Imperial Bank inviting to present its claim over the subject parcel of land,” said EACC.
The commission on behalf of KENHA acquired the parcel of land that is encumbered thereby exposing the Government to grave risk of loss of public funds and in the likely event there is default, the government will be forced to offset the loab facilities or incur costs as a result of litigation in securing an unencumbered title.
Investigations by the commission has established that the Sh 109,769,363 was paid out by the NLC without securing an unencumbered title thereby putting the government at risk of substantial loss.
It has been established that half of the amount was paid back as kickbacks to the NLC officials thereby occasioning loss of public funds.
EACC says that it is apprehensive that respondents in the light of ongoing investigations may in the interfere, withdraw, transfer, dispose or any other deal with the funds in the aforesaid accounts to defeat the course of justice before the commission has complete its investigations and commence recovery proceedings.
In supporting affidavit by the agency investigating officer Catherine Ngari said NLC failed to carry out an official search at the land’s registry to ascertain the current status of the LR.No. MN/VI/3801 and if it carried the search, it blatantly neglected to safeguard the public interest by ensuring that there is discharge of the encumbrance on the subject parcel to secure a good title for KENHA.