International investors in Tatu City have claimed a big win for the project, after years of battling with a faction led by Nahashon Nyagah, Steve Mwagiru and Vimal Shah. The trio have in the past been accused of leading a pack of wolves trying to wrest control of the project from a foreign investor Stephen Jennings.
Weekly citizen has traced the battle for Tatu City through the corridors of parliament to the basement of the Kenya Revenue Authority, and from the halls of the Land Registry to locked cabinets in the Registrar of Companies, in what appears to be a vicious determination by the threesome to control of a project in which they have invested nothing.
But from the script of a mercifully short press statement by Jennings, CEO of Rendeavour Holdings who are the majority owners of Tatu City, it appears clear that Simon Gicharu, the founder of Mt Kenya University, Mr. Nahshon Nyagah, a former central governor, Stephen Mwagiru, a coffee farmer with a history of land grabbing, and Vimal Shah, chairman of Bidco, have been left holding onto air. It is a major loss for the four because a petition that they had filed through proxy at parliament was declared dead by the speaker. The petition contained outrageous allegations against the Tatu City project, most of which were founded on falsehoods and alleged forged documents. Weekly Citizen has established that speaker Justin Muturi has advised Jennings to file a formal complaint with the Directorate of Criminal Investigations in respect of the criminal elements of the petition.
To complicate matters, the faction is accused of forging a letter purporting to be from Kenya Revenue Authority making a tax claim against Tatu City. In what was like a kick in the groin, KRA disowned the fake letter and confirmed it was a forgery. This was after Nyagah had personally lobbied several media houses to carry the story based on the alleged forged letter. Even media houses that had carried the story, including The Standard, retracted the story and apologised. Documents tabled before parliament and seen by Weekly Citizen show that Tatu City is tax compliant.
Tatu City management has pointed fingers at the faction of the corrupt cartel trying to bring down Tatu City through extortion and harassment, and their latest efforts include trying to put illegal caveats on Tatu City land in a bid to scare away investors. Sources say, Gicharu has denied having investment interests in Tatu City, nor having a hand in any of the woes bedevilling the project.
History of investment
Who is the legitimate owner of Tatu City? Weekly Citizen has constructed the ownership narrative that dates back to 2008. Then, Nahshon Nyagah and Stephen Mwagiru conceived the idea of a private city in Ruiru, but did not have the funds for the project. Through Vimal Shah, they scouted for a strategic investor with whom they could own the project on a 50-50 basis, and that is how they brought on board Jennings, an investment banker from New Zealand who had undertaken similar city scale projects in several parts of Africa through Rendeavour Holdings Ltd.
With co-investment commitment with Rendeavour secured, it would emerge later that the trio could not raise the funds to pay their proportion of the investment, in order to acquire the land that makes up Tatu City and Kofinaf, a group of neighbouring coffee farms, Rendeavour through its affiliate companies, paid out USD 21.7 million for the Tatu City land and USD 65.7 million for the Kofinaf land. The seller was Socfinaf, a Belgian coffee and rubber producer that owned and cultivated the land for decades. Weekly Citizen is in possession of bank slips in respect of the transaction.
It now emerges that Shah, Nyagah and Mwagiru took a shareholding but never paid coin a coin, nor paid back Rendeavour the money it paid for capital acquisition. Instead, they sought to thwart the development of Tatu City through vexatious legal actions designed to frustrate Rendeavour out of Kenya. Because Shah, Mwagiru and Nyagah have invested virtually nothing in the capital acquisitions, their shareholding in Tatu City has dwindled to almost zero. Weekly Citizen acquired copies of bank transaction slips for the land acquisition.
Record of harassment
In what appears to be desperate efforts by Nyagah, Mwagiru and Shah to raise finances to reclaim their stake in Tatu City, it is claimed that the trio obtained Sh500 million from Gicharu on the undertaking that they would help him secure some 1,000 acres of land owned by Rendeavour next to, but not part of, Tatu City. It was too late by the time he discovered that he had lost his money. But not without a fight: Gicharu, on the advice of Mwagiru, developed claims that some unnamed residents of Kiambu had actually purchased shares in Tatu City, and the Tatu City owners had reneged on giving out land to members of the public. This is understood to be the basis of several organised demonstrations against Tatu City. But records tabled in Parliament and seen by Weekly Citizen show that there was never a public placement of shares by Tatu City and that the claim is a fraud.
Additionally, in clever choreographed moves, Nyagah, who is a professed Christian, attempted to fraudulently change the shareholding of Kenyan companies own part of Tatu City to his sister, driver and some members of his church congregation. Shah, on the other hand, sent a forged letter without board approval seeking to freeze Tatu City’s bank accounts. Mwagiru, whose reputation can be easily checked by anyone in court records, in 2010-2013 sought to register caveats using falsified Forms CR12 to indicate that he and his mother were the sole shareholders and directors of Tatu City. Once exposed, Mwagiru and his mother were charged and convicted with offences relating to forgery and uttering false statements before the Chief Magistrates Court at Nairobi.
Will this illicit appetite for Tatu City end soon? It looks unlikely! With 41 large industrial companies already on the ground with an investment of over USD 1 billion in manufacturing, logistics and warehousing, five international and local curriculum schools open and oversubscribed, eight miles of asphalt roads this year done so far, the largest warehouse in east and central Africa, formal gazetement as a Special Economic Zone and 10,000 upcoming affordable housing units, who wouldn’t want a share of this city?
But Stephen Jennings appears to be undeterred in his resolve to deliver a city that is bigger than the current Nairobi CBD, Industrial Area and Upper Hill combined. In a hardhitting press statement at a Nairobi hotel, Jennings makes it clear that “Tatu City will never succumb to fraudsters and extortionists” and that Tatu City “shouldn’t be and won’t be hampered by corruption and impunity”. It appears the New Zealander is calling the bluff of Nyagah, Mwagiru and Shah.