Canada-based woman wins Nairobi property battle

After nearly a decade, justice has finally been delivered in a case where a Canada-based woman lost a prime piece of land in Loresho, Nairobi, through fraud.

Mrs Maria Rosita Cardozo has recovered the property after the Environment and Land Court found she and her husband, Victor Antony Cardozo, who died in August 2004, were victims of land cartels out to defraud legitimate owners of their properties.

Mr Robert Kibagendi Otachi, a businessman who recently lost the race for the Embakasi South parliamentary seat, is said to be the man behind the fraudulent acquisition of the property.

The court heard that he colluded with some officials of the Lands ministry and forged documents, including the title deed, to claim ownership of the multi-million-shilling property located near the Lions Eye Clinic.

HARASSED

Justice Lucy Gacheru ordered Mr Otachi to take the lease certificate, which was improperly issued to him, to the land registrar for cancellation.

She also ordered the land title for Nairobi/Block 90/235 reverts to Mrs Cardozo, who now owns the property following the death of her husband.

In her testimony, Mrs Cardozo said in 2007, she went to view her vacant property, only to discover that it was fenced with barbed wire. She said she was harassed by some individuals who claimed ownership of the land.

This prompted her to carry out a search in April 2008 at the Lands Office, where she established that the property was registered in the name of Mr Otachi and placed a caveat on the title.

Mrs Cardozo enjoys a leasehold interest on the land for 99 years from January 1, 1978.

ACQUIRED PROPERTY

In her relentless bid to recover the property, she moved to court through her appointed agent, Masai Mara Sopa Lodge.

She lodged a complaint against Mr Otachi and the Attorney-General, on behalf of the Lands ministry.

She told the court that she acquired the property on April 29, 1986, after which she was issued with a lease certificate and has since continued paying both the land rent and rates.

On the other hand, Mr Otachi claimed he bought the property from a couple, Mr Esono Aguesomo and Mrs Teresita Esono, in 1997 for Sh2.3 million. He contended he was the duly registered owner and had also been paying land rent and rates.

He denied suggestions by Mrs Cardozo that he acquired the land through fraud.

POWER OF ATTORNEY

Mr Shahid Wissanji, a director of Masai Mara Sopa Lodge Ltd, testified that Mrs Cardozo had given the power of attorney to the lodge, which had kept the original title to the property. He said Mrs Cardozo was elderly and a resident of Canada.

He told the court that Mrs Cardozo never transferred the property to a third party, and that Mr Otachi allegedly obtained the land title on April 8, 1997, which was 11 years after Mrs Cardozo had been issued with hers.

During cross-examination, Mr Wissanji denied knowledge about the sale of the land to Mr Otachi.

Although he admitted there was no existing structure on the land, Mr Wissanji said it remained a mystery how the property changed from Mrs Cardozo’s name to that of Mr Otachi.

Responding to the suit, Mr Otachi said in January 2008, three people, a woman and two men, visited the disputed land and asked him what he was doing on a private property.

He said he explained to them that it was his.

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