A controversial property deal between Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko and the Kenya Railways pension scheme is on the radar of anti-graft detectives.
The deal has exposed Sonko’s massive financial muscle at a time sleuths are pushing to have some of his assets forfeited to the state over corruption.
Sale agreements seen by the Star show that Sonko’s family is buying the property in the upmarket Upper Hill at Sh498.5 million.
The property is situated along Matumbato Road — right behind the five-star Radisson Blu Hotel — which is one of Nairobi’s most sought-after addresses.
The property is the nerve centre of Sonko’s political activities, serving as his private office, especially since he was barred from accessing City Hall.
In fact, Sonko forked out Sh144.6 million in just a week when the contract was inked on April 30 last year.
This was six months before Sonko was dramatically arrested by EACC detectives and charged in a Sh357 million graft case.
But the deal has now been rocked by controversy, including claims the land was undervalued.
The deal was inked by Sonko and the former team of trustees of Kenya Railways staff retirement benefits scheme—Corporate and Trust Pension Services Ltd. The trustees manage the fund on behalf of Kenya Railways retirees.
Their contract expired in July last year, just over three months after they sold the property.
Sources at EACC told the Star that among other issues, the commission is investigating where the governor got the sum to buy the property.
Yesterday, EACC boss Twalib Mbarak wrote to the acting CEO of the scheme, Victoria Mulwa, to provide at least eight sets of documents by Wednesday.
Mulwa will also be grilled on the same day at Integrity Centre.
“We hereby also invite your Ag. CEO for an interview and statement recording on the same date 6th May, 2020,” Mbarak wrote.
EACC wants tender documents, minutes of the tender committee, sale agreements, payment documents, approved subdivision and the main title deed.
The two parcels sold to the governor are adjacent to each other and were excised from LR No 209-6507 measuring 0.7415 acres and 0.5003 acres respectively.
For the first property, Sonko was to pay Sh298 million.
He paid Sh26.6 million before the execution of the contract and a further Sh60 million just seven days after the signing of the deal.
The governor was to buy the second parcel at Sh200.5 million.
He paid Sh18 million before signing the contract and a further Sh40 million in seven days.
In total, he paid Sh144.6 million as the initial instalment.
The balance of Sh353.9 million was to be paid in 90 days upon receipt of “completion documents” including the original certificates of titles and rates clearance.
However, Corporate and Trust Pension Services Ltd had not provided the completion documents to Sonko at the time they left office.
EACC has now moved in to freeze any further transaction on the property.
Mbarak initially wrote to Kenya Railway Corporation MD Philip Mainga to stop the deal.
But EACC has since established the property belongs to the pension scheme and fired a fresh letter to its managers.
“This is to ask you to halt the intended sale as the matter is under investigations,” Mbarak said in an April 29 letter.
Two months ago, the High Court froze Sonko’s 10 bank accounts with about Sh18 million.
The EACC alleges the governor pocketed millions in kickbacks from firms awarded lucrative contracts by Nairobi county.
“From the analysis of Mike Mbuvi Sonko’s account numbers 1580261402765, 1380262333608, 0350299195757 and 0020264389109 at Equity bank, Mike Mbuvi Sonko received monies totalling to Sh27,400,000 from other companies trading with the county,” EACC said in one of its affidavits.
The Assets Recovery Agency argues in court that there are grounds to believe that the cash in Sonko’s accounts was part of the funds stolen from the county government.
ARA intends to file a suit for the cash to be forfeited to the government.
The Star has documents which show that the Upper Hill property deal was signed between Corporate and Trust Pension Services Ltd directors James Olubayi and Anthony Kilavi, and a firm known as Primix Enterprises Ltd.
Sonko’s wife Primose Mwelu is one of the directors of Primix Enterprises Ltd.
She signed the sale agreement alongside her co-director Mwajuma Hamisi.
James Kanyeki, a current elected trustee of the scheme, blames the former trustees for failure to provide documents to the governor to complete the sale process.
He also blames them for allegedly having “drained” the scheme and withdrew, in unclear circumstances, some Sh22 million from the fund’s coffers long after their contract expired.
The matter is a subject of investigations by the DCI.
“Retirees have been hit hard. They have not received their pension for months. The blame is on former trustees. They sold the property but failed to deliver completion documents to the governor as agreed,” he told the Star.
But Olubayi, who is the chairman of Corporate and Trust Pension Services Ltd, dismissed the claims. He said during their tenure retirees had no pension arrears.
“These [current trustees] are people who are unable do their work. They are looking for a scapegoat,” he told the Star.
The more than 11,000 Kenya Railways retirees have been living dogs’ lives because the current trustees have 10-month arrears.
This is despite the scheme owning property worth more than Sh30 billion spread across the country.
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