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Sunday, December 5, 2021

Lawyer charged for defrauding Chinese firm over Sh1.1bn

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A city-based advocate has been charged for attempting to obtain Sh1.1 billion from a Chinese construction firm.

The lawyer, Mr Stephens Kithi Ngombo, has been charged in court for defrauding China Wuyi Kenya Limited, pretending he could sell land belonging to Tourism Finance Corporation.

According to the charge sheet, the suspect attempted to obtain Sh1.09 billion from the company on July 30, 2016. He is further accused of obtaining Sh20 million from the company.

The court heard that on April 18, 2017, Mr. Ngombo obtained the money by falsely pretending that it was part payment to secure the land, but he pleaded not guilty to the two offences when he appeared before Senior Resident Magistrate Rita Amwayi.

Mr Ngombo had asked the court to postpone the plea-taking to allow for the conclusion of a High Court case he said he had filed.

However, the magistrate declined to allow the request, noting that she had not been served with any High Court order stopping the advocate from pleading to the charges.

“There is nothing tabled before me to enable this court to defer plea-taking,” said the magistrate.

She released Mr Ngombo on a Sh500, 000 cash bail, which he paid and left the court premises.

The criminal charges against the advocate arise from a civil dispute that has also been filed against him. In 2019, the firm sued the advocate, in a civil suit, seeking a refund of the Sh20 million released to him to enable it acquire another land.

The firm also sought to have the advocate refund Sh5.8 million in legal fees it incurred on the aborted sale. The company claimed that on or about July 30, 2016, it entered into a sale agreement with Ngombo, who agreed to sell a parcel of land to them.

Records show that the lawyer was contracting in his capacity as a beneficial owner of the land, having obtained authority by purportedly winning a tender to sell the land on behalf of the registered owner.

The agreed price was Sh1.2 billion and that it was further agreed that upon payment of the deposit, the lawyer would ensure that tenants on the land vacated and all semi-permanent fixtures removed.

According to the firm, after execution of the contract, it proceeded to pay the lawyer Sh121 million, being 10 per cent of the purchase price into an interest-earning account at a bank, held jointly by lawyers for both parties.

“On April 11, 2017, at the defendant request, the plaintiff through its advocates released Sh20 million out of the deposit paid to be utilised for the purpose of vacant possession,” reads part of the suit documents. The firm indicated that it required the lawyer to nominate it as the authorised transferee to facilitate preparation of transfer forms by the registered owner to itself, but it was never done.

“Instead, the defendant introduced a third party by the name of Propken (Mauritius) Ltd who purportedly had the transferees’ rights to the property,” argued the Chinese firm.

The firm said the lawyer was fraudulent and misrepresented facts which if had been disclosed at the time of the agreement, it would have opted out.

“To date, the defendant has not refunded the amount despite the agreement requiring a refund of all sums paid to the vendor immediately,” part of the suit documents state.

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