Court To Decide If State Is Liable Over Fake Land Titles
The court of appeal has been tasked with determining whether
the government should pay damages to victims of land fraud holding invalid title
deeds that were transferred to them through the Ministry of Land. The basis of
the suit is that since the government is the sole custodian and repository of
clean land records, it should have an obligation to compensate victims of
falsified land ownership documents.
Thus, when a land purchaser is issued with a title deed that
turns out to be invalid or fake, due to malpractices such as fraud, forgery,
and misrepresentation he ought to be compensated for the loss.
The monumental suit aims to hold the government responsible
for the loss suffered by land buyers conned by fraudsters, who use fake
documents to transact and impersonate the real property owners.
In addition the suit seeks to hold the government liable for
any inaccuracy in the land register. Should the case sail through, the
government is staring at claims worth billions of shillings from the high
number of fraud cases in the sector. The appellate judges will determine
whether a person deprived of land or any interest in land as a consequence of
fraud is entitled to compensation by the government besides the recovery of
damages from the fraudster.
The appeal was lodged by a victim of land fraud , mark Lecchni
who was swindled Sh 8 million in 2000in a transaction involving a piece of land
in Muthaiga , Nairobi. The seller was a fraudster who also issued him a fake
title deed that the land registrar failed to detect. He was also presented with
a fake certificate and a deed plan.
Mr Lecchini moved to the appellate court after the High
Court (Environment and Land Court) dismissed his claim on grounds that he was
not entitled to the special damages claimed. He wanted to be paid Sh150 million
being the value of the suit property at the time of hearing the case in 2018
plus special damages of Sh80 million for the loss he suffered as a result of
the cancellation of his title. The land belonged to the son of the late
billionaire Tarlochan Singh Rai, Mr Iqbal Singh Rai, who had acquired the
property in 1988.
In his court papers, Mr Lecchini narrates that by an
agreement of sale dated May 29, 2000, he purchased the parcel from a man posing
as Mr Rai at a consideration of Sh8 million. He paid the full purchase price
through his advocates after which the property was transferred to him. He took
possession of the property and started fencing. To evict Mr Lecchini, the real
Rai filed a case in court to assert his right over ownership of the property.
In the transaction, the fake Rai appointed an agent named Mr
Fred Waithaka to represent him in the sale of the property. Mr Waithaka was
later arrested and convicted to two years in prison for fraud by obtaining
money from Mr Lecchini through false pretense.
Read the whole story here