City businessman linked to fake gold scam denied Sh140m in SGR land deal
A businessman at the centre of a multi-million shilling fake gold scandal has suffered a major setback after a Nairobi court set aside Sh140 million award he had won through a default judgment.
High Court judge Chacha Mwita stopped the payment made to Mr Zaheer Jhanda through his company Altana Corporation Ltd against Clarence Matheny Leadership Training Institute (CMLTI) after it was established the judgment was entered prematurely.
The judge observed that time allowed by the rules of procedure had not lapsed when a High Court Registrar ordered the church to pay Sh139.9 million which had been set aside for consultancy services allegedly offered by Mr Jhanda.
He said the action had deprived the church an opportunity to be heard and was, therefore, condemned unheard against the rules of natural justice.
The CMLTI through its lawyer told justice Mwita that the judgment was irregular because it was entered before the time required for them to respond or file defence had lapsed.
The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) also supported the case saying the judgment was entered prematurely against procedural justice and the right to fair hearing.
Mr Jhanda on his part said the church was served with the court documents and summons to enter appearance but they failed to appear.
The NLC had last year agreed to pay CMLTI Sh927.8 million for a piece of land in Ongata Rongai that was compulsorily acquired for the construction of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR).
However, EACC moved to court and stopped the payment, pending the conclusion of a probe surrounding the compulsory acquisition.
The court ordered that the entire Sh927.8 million be deposited in court but Sh139.9 million be set aside. Thereafter, Mr Jhanda moved to court seeking for the release of the money to Altana Corporation, arguing that it was his consultancy fees.
Mr Jhanda argued that his firm offered consultancy services in seeking adequate compensation in the events leading to the compulsory acquisition of the property and was entitled to 15.3 per cent of the total award to the church.
But the judge set aside the judgment and the consequential orders and granted CMLTI leave to enter appearance “as the fault was that of the court.”
The case will now start afresh. In the wake of the scandal, EACC is pursuing former NLC chairman Muhammad Swazuri to face further graft charges. Prof Swazuri is accused of inflating a compensation package and using a company owned by Mr Jhanda to collect kickbacks from the church group.
According to EACC, Prof Swazuri and other NLC and Kenya Railways officials used Mr Jhanda’s Altana Corporation to receive bribes from the church group following the compulsorily acquisition of land for the SGR.
China Communication Construction Company (CCCC) Limited, which was hired by Kenya Railways to put up Phase 2A of the SGR, has already taken possession of the land. CMLTI had asked the Kajiado High Court to bar Kenya Railways Corporation or its contractor from taking possession of the land until compensation for the property had been released in full.
Mr Jhanda is said to have used his ‘negotiation skills’ to help the church get the best deal from the SGR largesse.