Sh16m Karen land deal, chickenpox, and a seven-year debt

Stephen Njoroge Mbugua conceals his identity at the Milimani Law Courts on March 22, 2024

Stephen Njoroge Mbugua conceals his identity at the Milimani Law Courts on March 22, 2024, during the hearing of a Sh16 million fraud case against him.

Photo credit: Richard Munguti | Nation Media Group

A court has been told how a real estate agent defrauded a New York-based auditor, over Sh16 million through the purchase of a non-existent parcel of land in Karen, the upmarket city suburb.

Documents show Joseph Gitau, lost his money to Stephen Njoroge Mbugua, who operated dollar accounts in two city banks.

In his evidence, Chief Inspector Benjamin Chelanga told Milimani Chief Magistrate Susan Shitubi that Mr Mbugua lied to the complainant that he was in a position to purchase land for him in Karen, Nairobi County.

The magistrate heard that soon after Mr Mbugua received the money for the transaction, he called Mr Gitau to inform him he had contracted chickenpox.

Insp Chelanga also took the court through bank statements showing how money was deposited and withdrawn to pay the accused person. 

Mr Gitau, now resident in the UK where he shifted base, through his lawyer Robert Asembo, told the court that they communicated using emails, which were also presented before the court by the witness.

The magistrate was also taken through WhatsApp messages exchanged between Mr Mbugua and Mr Gitau, whose discussion centred on the purchase of the city land.

Court to avenge him

Mr Gitau urged the court to avenge him since “it is well over four years since he paid for land which never existed.”

The accused has denied defrauding Mr Gitau of Sh16 million pretending that he would sell to him half an acre of land in the upmarket Karen suburb within Nairobi, near Hillcrest School.

Mr Gitau testified how he wired the money into the accused’s account at Equity Bank Karen branch on October 1, 2017.”

“Soon after I transferred the money through my New York bankers, I called Mbugua to confirm receipt of the remittance to his dollar account at the Equity Bank, Karen branch,” Gitau said.

Ms Shitubi heard Mr Mbugua confirmed receipt of the money after three days as he had switched off his phone, then flew to the Philippines for specialised treatment after allegedly contracting chickenpox.

The magistrate heard how in mid-2017, Gitau travelled from New York to Nairobi to be shown the upmarket property he had paid for.

In the advertisement read out to the magistrate, Mr Mbugua had alleged there were “half-acre plots lined for sale at Karen, Nairobi.”

Insp Chelanga produced a sale agreement between Gitau and the accused over the sale of the property.

The hearing continues on May 2, 2024.