How Mt Kenya residents are losing millions to fraudulent Del Monte land sale

Del Monte

An aerial aerial view of pineapple plantations at Del Monte farm in Thika, Kiambu County.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

A cartel fraudulently selling food processing company Del Monte’s land has emerged in Murang'a County.

The fraudsters are using the land to make a killing and includes some government officers, business people and brokers.

According to County Commissioner Karuku Ngumo, the cartel is operating through a company identified as Kabuku Sasa.

Among those who have fallen prey to the fraud are residents of Laikipia, Murang'a, Nyeri, Kiambu and Kirinyaga counties, where recruitments for shareholders have been going on.

“The company is not legally registered and has swindled many unsuspecting buyers. The promise is that it is in a position to sell land, which it does not own," said Mr Ngumo.

The county commissioner revealed that the fraudsters have been saying Del Monte will cede 1,400 acres to the residents of Murang'a, which will be subdivided among listed shareholders.

According to some transactions seen by Nation.Africa and which are now subject to police investigations, one is requires to pay Sh5,000 and is registered as a shareholder.

A share certificate goes for Sh50,000 and upon payment of Sh1million, one is put on a waiting list for title deeds of 50 by 100 feet plots of land.

The fraud is being fuelled by the fact that it is not clear the total acreage Del Monte sits on.

When she appeared before the parliamentary committee on Land last year, then-Cabinet Secretary Faridah Karoney said the government intended to renew a lease for 32,240 acres at the Del Monte plantation, Del Monte itself said it sits on 22,500 acres, while the committee said the lease agreement reads 20,000 acres.

Del Monte further reported that it utilises 14,000 acres which it has put under pineapple plantation.

It is currently diversifying into macadamia and avocado farming.
It is in light of these disparities that the National Land Commission (NLC) and Parliament ordered the Directorate of Survey to measure the land and provide the official figure of the holding.

The report is yet to be filed.

Mr Ngumo said the fraudsters had established a makeshift office which has since been demolished on the orders of the County Security Committee.

Career administrator Joseph Kaguthi told Nation.Africa: "I have several friends in my native Nyandarua County who have complained of falling prey to the scheme."

Parted with about Sh23 million

He said collectively, the friends have parted with about Sh23 million.

"I was approached by three well-known people to me who told me that they were acting at the behest of senior security and county officers who had managed to gain ownership of 500 acres out of the ceded land," said Mr James Mugo, a resident of Giakanja in Nyeri County.

He said that the land would be subdivided into plots measuring 50 by 100 feet, each retailing at Sh1 million.

"I did my calculations and realised that President William Ruto has since announced that some of the ceded land would be used to host low-cost housing project.

"I also figured out that the county government has announced that it will use part of the land to build a Level Six hospital and an industrial hub."

So, Mr Mugo took the bait. " I parted with Sh3 million on the speculation that I would sell off the pieces at astronomical figures in the near future ... now I hear I was conned," he lamented.

Immediate former Ichagaki MCA Charles Mwangi revealed to Nation.Africa how he saved two of his friends from falling victim to the fraud.

"They were on the verge of paying up for four plots at a cost of Sh4 million. I met them in a Kenol town banking lobby and as we waited for our chance to be served, we got talking," he said.

It is in the process of that talking that "they disclosed to me that they were there to get finances to buy a stake of Del Monte land...".

Mr Mwangi said he was alarmed and called the NLC to ask whether there was any of the plantation's land being sold off.

"I also called former Lands Principal Secretary Nicholas Muraguri to enlighten me on the Del Monte land. I also called Murang'a and Kiambu County governments and all answers were uniform — that the land was still registered under the plantation. It was not up for sale," he said.

Mr Ngumo asked victims of the fraud to record statements at Ngati police station to aid the ongoing investigations.

Record statements

"It is only if victims will record statements that we can arrest and charge the suspects. I also urge people to realise that there is no land left to be hawked anywhere in this country," he said.

Mr Ngumo said he never understands "why people 
Mr Thuo told Nation.Africa: "I will not even bother to record a police statement since something tells me it will be in vain."

He added: “The kind of haste that I applied to trust the scheme, in retrospect, makes me feel somehow silly. I should have applied due diligence.”

Mr Thuo called the people who “sold” him the land and they told him the “big fish” in the scheme started fighting amongst themselves and the deal went sour.

Recognising the language of con artists, Mr Thuo said he is not trying to put the incident behind him.

Mr Ngumo clarified that the process of acquiring the land to be ceded is still ongoing.

“Once the process is through, the land will not be subject to hawking. It will be utilised in a structured manner using the laws of acquisition. There is no chance that the land will be placed in the market," he said.