Con Artists Defraud Kenyans as Firms Speculate on Land Near Konza ICT Park
Posted by Administrator on April 2, 2012
A multi-million-shilling land scandal is unfolding in Machakos. At least 4,500 Kenyans have been duped to pay more than Sh50,000, as investors rush to speculate on land near the planned Konza ICT Park at Malili.
One of the companies promising to sell land is New Konza Ranch, registered both as a limited liability company and as a society. But investigations by the Nation show that the company is yet to acquire land. It only hopes that the government will allocate it the resource.
“We are pursuing an allotment of land from the government in Kapiti Plains,” ranch chairman Muthiani Mwangangi said during a meeting called at the weekend near the district commissioner’s office in Mukaa.
As he talked, a lorry full of Administration Police and National Youth Service officers was on stand-by. A retinue of hired bouncers was also at hand to protect the officials from cameras and journalists.
The directors of the company were worried. Members had only been informed of the “special” meeting the previous day and most of them had been sidelined.
Late last year, an SMS was sent to the 4,500 shareholders requesting them to ‘top-up’ their Sh2,000 with Sh50,000 deposit to a bank account if they wanted to own their allotted land.
Those who failed to ‘top-up’ their Sh2,000 were not invited. Only about 500 shareholders were invited.
“Those are not our members. Our members are only the ones who’ve agreed to what we’re saying and have paid the Sh50,000 per share,” Mr Mwangangi said when asked about the others who had contributed Sh2,000.
When the Nation visited the New Konza Ranch offices in Machakos three weeks ago, the Sh2,000 per share and Sh50,000 ‘top-up’ formula still stood. The company was promising an acre for Sh52,000 in an area where an acre can fetch as much as Sh1.5 million.
The location of the land remained equally dubious. The company representatives made reference to a faded map of a 3,870-hectare land parcel with no identifiable surveyor’s signature and no land registration numbers.
“It’s in Kapiti Plains,” was the explanation.
The firm, Mr Mwangangi claimed, had applied for 6,000 acres from the Ministry of Lands in Kapiti Plains. He attributed the delay in the allocation of land to the pending formation of the National Land Commission.
Kapiti Plains is a ranch after the Chumvi turn-off to Machakos on Mombasa Road, and before the 5,000-acre fenced-off ICT Park. It is a research facility owned by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).
“On three separate incidents, we’ve received reports that there were people trying to sell the land. It’s not for sale and we’ve put up signs along Mombasa Road to that effect,” ILRI’s Board of Trustees secretary Bruce Scott said.
An officer from the Machakos Land Registry, who requested anonymity since he is not authorised to speak to press, confirmed that other than the 5,000-acre ICT land, there was no government land in Kapiti Plains.
Additionally, if the government had 6,000 acres in Konza, it would not have made sense to buy 5,000 acres to build an ICT Park.
When tasked to produce copies of applications made to the Lands ministry for the Kapiti Plains land, Mr Mwangangi was evasive.
“We can’t disclose information to anybody, including members. This is our secret,” he said. “We are going to buy the land and our members need to have faith in us,” he added.
The legal standing of the New Konza Ranch is equally vague. A search for the entity at the Registrar of Companies uncovered a New Konza Ranch Ltd with Mwangangi as one of the shareholders. C.K. Muthusi and Boniface Sila Mulei were listed as the other shareholders.
A similar search at the Societies Registry also unearthed a New Konza Ranch Association. The chairman, this time round, was one Joseph Mutuku. Everline Mbithuka and Muthiani Mwangagi were listed secretary and treasurer, respectively.
Ms Mbithuka said the organisation was now strictly operating as an association.
The Machakos DC’s office is investigating the New Konza Ranch, a firm that set up shop in Susu Centre in Machakos town in 2010 and has since been peddling murky land deals.
“It’s big fraud. I am convinced that there is a group of people who formed a company to defraud others and at the end of the day, they will be very rich,” said Machakos district commissioner Kobia wa Kamau.
The highly coveted land along the Mombasa highway seems nothing more than a wasteland broken only by squat mud houses and a blossoming shanty town.
However, since the government bought 5,000 acres from the Malili Ranch Company for the construction of Kenya’s first technopolis, land prices have soared. Men have become rich overnight brokering prime real estate and scam artists have found a safe haven.
“You have to be very careful about what you buy and who you buy it from. Barely a day goes by without receiving a report about con men,” Malili sub-chief Douglas Mutiso told the Nation.
According to the Machakos DC’s office, the New Konza Ranch has been making frantic attempts to acquire alternative land from three other ranching companies that border the ICT Park: Malili, Aimi ma Kilungu and Konza.
Calculating how much the New Konza Ranch has managed to collect from people is a tricky affair.
Mr Kamau, in a letter summoning the directors to a meeting, estimates that they have amassed Sh260 million.
“We have summoned the company to reveal the nature of their activities because we haven’t seen shareholders receive their dues yet,” said Mr Kamau.
During Saturday’s meeting it was revealed that the firm had purchased 97 acres.
However, there is no single large tract of land in the area and the 97 acres are scattered in a large area. (READ: For start-ups, tech hub anytime, not Konza city)
SOURCE: DAILY NATION
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