By Ivan Mwine
As the saying goes; the fish starts to rot from the head. The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Equity Bank James Mwangi is a man under siege.
Mwangi, who has served Equity Bank for 32 years, faces arrest over allegations that he fraudulently grabbed a multibillion property in Muthaiga, a plush suburb in Nairobi, which belongs to a businessman identified as Anverali Amershi.
Amershi, who claims to have legally bought the property from former Finance minister the late Arthur Magugu and his wife, Margaret Wairimu, at KSh130 million, reported to Police and asked them to conduct an investigation into how Mwangi acquired the prime property.
Police investigations have revealed that Mwangi fraudulently acquired the prime property and thus his claims of ownership of the property hold no water and is therefore liable for arrest.
It has been established however that in an effort to interfere with the cause of justice, Mwangi has since run to court and secured an order blocking any investigations into his ownership of the property and possible arrest over the same.
Justice Hedwig Ong’udi shocked many when he granted Mwangi a temporary order stopping any arrest or questioning of Mwangi and transferred the constitutional petition filed to the land court, which is handling the Muthaiga land dispute.
Mwangi filed the constitutional suit on July 21, seeking to block the Director of Public Prosecutions, Noordin Haji, and the Director of Criminal Investigations, George Kinoti, from arresting or charging him, something that has since raised controversy.
This is because one wonders why Mwangi would go to the lengths of securing a court order to block his investigation and possible arrest, if indeed he legally acquired the contested property.
According to sources, Mwangi is occupying the prime property in Muthaiga which he allegedly fraudulently grabbed through his bank chain either through a tainted auction or some other fraudulent means which amounts to a criminal offence.
The development comes after a land search conducted in 2015 failed to establish the real owner of the land, forcing Mount Pleasant a company owned by Amershi, the alleged owners, to file a missing file complaint. It would seem Mwangi had something to do with the disappearance of this file.
In 2016 Mount Pleasant got its first victory after it was issued with a certificate confirming ownership of the land following confirmation that they had bought the property from former owners the late Finance minister Arthur Magugu and his wife, Margaret Wairimu, at KSh130 million on July 21, 2006.
However, Mwangi and another respondent identified as Jane Wangui Mundia claim to have bought the property at KSh306 million in 2013, something that Amershi vehemently disputes and has since put him to task to produce evidence to support his claims.
Justice Ong’udi stated thus in his ruling; “Pending mention on 28/07/22 before the ELC (Environment and Lands Court) to which this matter is now transferred, a conservatory order is issued staying or suspending investigations into, any arrest and prosecution by the respondents in relation to the parcel of land namely, L.R. No.214/382 (formerly L.R Nos 214/20/1/2 and 214/214/20/1/1.”
Mwangi and Mundia are listed as petitioners in court documents, with Haji and Kinoti as respondents in the matter.
According to the said suit, Karmali petitioned court in 2020, seeking Mwangi’s eviction from the land, branding him a trespasser.
Karmali alleges that the records at the land registry were altered, making it difficult to trace successive owners of the contested land.
Court documents indicate that the Magugus secured a KSh10.5 million loan from the National Bank of Kenya (NBK) in 1987 for a company named MDC Holdings Ltd using the Muthaiga property which they had bought in 1982 as mortgage.
Karmali asserts that MDC defaulted on the loan after which NBK sued it, seeking to recover the debt and interest that had accrued for 10 years.
He contends that after encountering financial problems, Magugu started to subdivide the property into two – LR No 214/20/2/1 and LR No 214/20/2/2 although the plan was not completed.
Karmali says his firm wrote to the Commissioner of Surveys in 2008 seeking to cancel the subdivision of the land, but in 2013, Mount Pleasant guards were arrested after one John Birech filed a complaint that the company had encroached on his land situate on LR No 214/20/2/1 and LR No 214/20/2/2.
However, Birech was subsequently charged with forgery although the court acquitted him on July 5, 2019, after finding that prosecution had failed to prove its case against him and somehow along the way the property got possessed by Mwangi, who doesn’t want the police to investigate how he acquired it.
This is mainly because investigations into how he acquired the property are likely to unearth his fraudulent deeds.
This is because if in the event that the investigation was instigated, the probe file will appear in Mwangi’s regulatory filing on the suitability of bank directors and executives, which is done annually when lenders are renewing the permits with the Central Bank of Kenya (CNK) yet this is bad for his reputation.
It should suffice to note that his Bank, Equity bank Uganda, has been sighted in many cases in which customer property has been fraudulently sold to Equity Bank bosses using surrage companies.
Word making the rounds is that in the Simbamanyo saga it is the Equity Bank bosses in cahoots with their lawyers that actually bought the Hotel property, Afrique suites Hotel using commission proceeds they received from Meera Investments and a loan/mortgage they arranged for themselves from Equity bank using a surrogate company Luwa Luwa.
It is sad that this bank does this all the time and the courts allow them to get away with it.
In 2021, a city businesswoman identified as Edith Nakacwa, lost Shs21.95M from her account with Equity Bank after the money was fraudulently withdrawn from the account without her consent.
In her letter to the manager of the Equity Bank Church House Branch on April 23, Nakacwa noted that she had found out that the entries through which her money was removed from her account without her knowledge were done using Eazzy Money App which she never initiated and she had to fight a legal battle with the Bank before she recovered her money.
But it is not only Nakacwa who has fallen victim to this fraud at Equity Bank, because reports indicate that in 2021 alone, 11 customers accused Equity Bank Uganda of not being helpful after their money went missing from their accounts.
Among these is Flavia Adongo, a bank customer, who claims to have lost Shs1.1 million and accuses the bank of exposing its clients to fraud through the Eazzy Money App.
Even customer bank accounts are routinely fraudulently debited for example in the recent case of Ms Angella Namatovu, who alleges that officials at Equity Bank deducted UGX50,000,000 from her account No. 1010100909543 between 18th and 20th June, 2022 and when she went to the bank to withdraw the money, they told her she had withdrawn it via an ATM transactions and that it was done using her card number 4860xxxx9407 via a “Zazu Africa limited” (merchant)website, which was not true.
Now Namatovu is contemplating running to court but one wonders whether she will get any justice since the courts have shown that they are in bed with the fraudulent banks.