A businesswoman is locked up in a court battle with a bank over a 100-acre land valued at Sh550 million in a case of forgery of land titles.
The dispute shows how land cartels take advantage of land owner’s absence to forge their title deeds and use the forgeries to secure huge loans from banks only for the owner to realise when the land is being auctioned.
In the case, LA Awalo claims that she bought the land in Kajiado County in 2007 while she was an employee of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees.
“I have never sold or transferred any piece of the land to anybody and the title has always been in my safe custody. I was surprised when the bank wanted to auction the land, claiming that the title had been used to secure a Sh50 million loan by another company,” said Awalo.
The dispute started when Sidian Bank Limited went to court seeking orders to auction Ms Awalo’s land to recover the loan advanced to Zenith Pharmaceuticals Limited and its two directors, Gregory Muinde and Janet Nzomo.
According to the bank, Muinde and Nzomo through their company approached it in 2014 for a Sh50 million loan to expand their business. The bank asked for the loan’s security upon which the two presented the land title.
“The bank took due diligence and sought permission from the land’s board for their consent to charge the title as guarantee for the loan. We then reached an agreement and the title was registered for the loan,” said the bank through lawyer Michael Muchemi.
When Zenith Pharmaceuticals limited defaulted repaying the loan, the bank notified them of the intention to auction the land to recover the amount.
Ms Awala became alarmed when some strangers visited her home with information that they wanted to auction her land to recover a loan she had guaranteed the company. She immediately went to the lands registrar and confirmed that her title was safe and had never been transferred.
According to her, the company directors had even forged her signature purporting that she agreed to the change of title documents.
“I am a total stranger to dealings between the bank and the company. I was not in the country on the date they indicate that I signed the authorisation letter, it therefore surprises me when the bank says they have title documents which I have never shared with anyone,” swore Awala.
Kajiado principal registrar of lands David Nyambaso also confirmed that Awala’s title has never been transferred to any person, and that the bank might have been conned by a forged title to give the loan.
Nyambaso swore that the bank was lying that they sought clarification from his office on the authenticity of the title used to secure the loan, given that the date they claim to have done the search was not a government working day.
“On December 5 2014, the lands registry at Kajiado was closed for reorganization. The land title could therefore not be presented at the registry as claimed. We have checked our records and believe the title presented to the bank were forgeries,” said Nyambaso.
The case is scheduled for hearing on April 6.