African Press International (API)

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Grand Regency sale was legitimate, says Lands Commissioner

Posted by African Press International on August 5, 2008

By Alex Ndegwa

Commissioner of Lands Zablon Agwata has said all legal requirements and land registration procedures were followed in the Grand Regency Hotel sale.

Agwata, the first witness to testify at the commission of inquiry into the sale of the luxury hotel, said he had no reason to object to the registration of the transfer documents.

President Kibaki appointed the team last month.

Agwata told the commission that CBK, which placed a charge on the hotel worth Sh2.5 billion in 1993, had exercised its statutory powers as a chargee to dispose of the property.

He said he issued a consent order for registration of transfer instruments, since all the paperwork was done properly and the laid down procedures had been followed.

He explained that a land rates clearance certificate had been issued, since outstanding fees totalling Sh16.3 million had been cleared earlier.

He told the commission that in June, Central Bank Governor Njuguna Ndungu asked him to speed up the transfer of the hotel to its Libyan owners because the sale was a “government-to-government transaction”.

Agwata said Njuguna informed him in a telephone conversation on June 19 that CBK had sold the hotel, and the Lands ministry should expedite the transfer of the property, because there was “urgency in the matter”.

Asked by Commission Chairman Justice Majid Cockar whether the Governor had explained what the urgency was, the witness replied:

“He told me the transaction was a government-to-government transfer, since another government (Libya) was involved, and it was necessary that the transaction be done with speed.”

Transfer of property

Agwata produced the title deed that indicated the property Land Reference No 209/9514 was transferred to the Libyan Arab African Company limited on June 24.

He said it was sold for Sh1.85 billion, although the Chief Government Valuer valued it at Sh2 billion.

However, on July 1, the Principal Registrar of Titles Theresia Mburu imposed a caveat on the property following a directive by Lands Minister James Orengo who queried the sale, said Agwata.

Orengo blew the whistle on alleged irregularity in the Sh2.9 billion hotel sale, which set off a chain of events, leading to a Parliament vote of no confidence against Finance Minister Amos Kimunya.

Kimunya was forced to step aside last month over his role in the saga.

Yesterday, Kimunya sat through the two-and-half-hour proceedings in the company of his lawyer Prof Githu Muigai.

During cross-examination by Muigai, Agwata said he had no contact with Kimunya in the course of the transaction.



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