In 2010 he was an optimistic and cheerful man as he forked out Sh5.2 million to buy two parcels of land in Kisumu’s Riat area.
He spent even more money in renting and stocking a fast food hotel at the heart of the lakeside town.
But today, Rudolf Marquardt, a German, is a bewildered 58-year-old counting losses and recuperating from two heart surgeries.
He has lost both the land and the hotel’s property.
The devastation has taken a toll on his health, so much so that the progress of court cases around the matter has slowed down.
The cases are being heard in Kenya while he lives in Germany, travelling when needed.
“I’ve had two heart operations and I’m still in rehabilitation,” he told the Nation on the phone from Germany.
“At the end of last year, there was a hearing but I couldn’t go because of my health.”
The Germany-based computer hardware expert is now looking up to the courts to help him regain control of the land, which he says he bought using part of his private pension savings and a bank loan.
His tribulations date back to 2002 when he married a Kenyan woman in Germany.
With the woman, who hails from Maseno in Kisumu County, they had two sons aged 13 and 10.
Their marriage was dissolved in 2007 and they have been living apart.
“But we’re in good condition,” said Mr Marquadt during the interview.
The good rapport that Mr Marquardt maintained with his ex-wife’s relatives saw him agree with their suggestion to buy land near their home.
START A BUSINESS
“The grandma of my children begged me to start a business and begged me to settle as near as possible to her place because one day she wants to see her grandchildren,” he said.
In late 2010, he bought the two plots and registered them in the name of Rudi Marquardt Electronic Company, a firm that was incorporated in June 2010.
The plots are adjacent to each other and each measures about a fifth of an acre. One had a house on it.
Having bought the land, the relatives of his ex-wife recommended he hires one Vallery Jimoi Khazalwa as the caretaker of his property.
Mr Marquardt says he gave Ms Khazalwa one share in Rudi Marquardt Electronic Company. He remained with 9,999 shares, each one worth Sh10.
He alleges Ms Khazalwa later masterminded a land theft scheme that involved some lawyers, officers at the Kisumu lands office and the police.
In documents that Mr Marquardt’s company filed at the Environment and Land Court in Kisumu in March 2014, it is the caretaker who is accused of fraudulently transferring the land to herself then selling it to three men — John Odindo Ogilo, Oscar Ogilo Odindo and Staline Yuaya Odindo.
At the moment, Mr Marquardt has title deeds to the plots, same as the three buyers.
A sale agreement the buyers filed in court shows Ms Khazalwa sold them the plots on September 20, 2013 for Sh7.5 million.
In the case currently before court, Mr Marquardt wants an order to nullify the transfer of the plot from his company to Ms Khazalwa then to the three buyers.
He also wants “an order directing the Kisumu District Land Registrar to recall, revoke, cancel or nullify the title deeds” issued to Ms Khazalwa and the three men, same as an order to bar them from ever encroaching on the land.
“Rudi Marquardt Electronics Company reiterates that it is the legal owner holding indefeasible title to the said suit property and therefore no clean title of ownership can be conferred to a third party without its express consent. It is the sole legal proprietor of the suit land to date,” Mr Marquardt’s company said through lawyer Paul Mungla.
BUYING LAND ILLEGALLY
But the buyers deny ever buying land illegally, saying they are innocent purchasers who thought all records at the Kisumu land registry were in order before they bought the plots that had been registered in Ms Khazalwa’s name since August 2012.
“Having conducted search before the purchase of the properties and confirming that they were in the name of the seller, there was no fraudulent transfer,” they say in an affidavit sworn by Mr John Odindo.
“Myself and [my fellow buyers] are innocent purchasers for value,” Mr Odindo adds.
They attached the documents they signed while purchasing the plots, which show the lawyer who presided over the transfer is one Joseph Musomba who Mr Rudolf accuses of having collaborated with Ms Khazalwa to dispose of the property.
ROPE IN LANDS MINISTRY
But Mr Musomba, when contacted by the Nation, denied having committed any wrong, saying he was just obeying a client’s wish.
In the case at the Kisumu Lands court, Mr Rudolf’s firm also listed the Attorney-General as a respondent in an attempt to rope in the Lands ministry for having presided over a fraudulent transfer.
But in a response of May 2014, Winny Ochwal representing the AG denied there having been any wrongdoing at the lands office.
“If any transfer and or transaction was carried out on the suit land, then the same was done with utmost good faith and the laid down procedures were followed,” stated Ochwal, asking the court to dismiss the case.
Currently, the disputed plots have a caveat against any dealings. Mr Justice Anthony Kaniaru, sitting at the Kisumu Lands Court on January 29, 2015, ordered there should not be any further transaction on the land before the case is finalised.
By the time the judge issued the order, Ms Khazalwa had not filed a single response to the accusations against her.
“She seems to be the brain behind the whole scheme. Until the case is heard, there is an obvious need to preserve the parcels of land an order of inhibition therefore becomes necessary.
The order is purely meant to preserve the property, not to declare anybody the owner,” said Justice Kaniaru.
WORKING WITH POLICE
Seven months earlier, Ms Khazalwa had been tracked to Egesa Villa in Nairobi’s Umoja I Estate by court servers working with police.
A court process server wrote an affidavit stating that Ms Khazalwa, after admitting she was the one they were looking for, refused to sign that she had received the court papers.
“I served her with the documents which she accepted but declined to sign and stated she has to consult her lawyer, a Mr Musomba in Kisumu,” stated the court server.
What makes the case more complicated is the fact that Ms Khazalwa says she was married to Mr Marquardt, a fact the latter denies.
In fact, there are documents showing that she filed a case in September 2013, asking the Senior Resident Magistrate at Winam courts in Kisumu to dissolve her union with Mr Marquardt because he had allegedly threatened to kill her.
In a petition filed by Mr Musomba, she alleged Mr Marquardt is “a well-connected man who is lethal, brutal and deadly”.
She added: “I met him in Kisumu in 2009 and we cohabited as husband and wife at 10 Houses Estate in Kisumu together with my son [name withheld] and stayed continuously until July 2013 when he left for Germany.”
Mr Marquardt, on his part, denies ever living with her, saying she was just a caretaker in his farm.
Mr Musomba told the Nation that the divorce case is still pending as Mr Marquardt has yet to file a response.
It is from the divorce case that on September 20, 2013, a principal magistrate issued orders restraining Mr Marquardt from interfering with Ms Khazalwa’s house and business until the case was heard and determined, orders Mr Marquardt terms “fictitious”.
Meanwhile, Mr Marquardt is not sure of the whereabouts of the hotel he had invested in, called Morning Blue along Kisumu’s Odera Street.
Utensils, cutlery, gas cylinders, and tens of other items he had bought for the hotel disappeared at one point and he says little has been done to recover them despite reporting to police.