What you need to know:
- Court directs the money deposited in a joint interest-earning account be released to Mr Udi Gecaga’s lawyers in seven days.
- Mr Udi is the former husband of Uhuru’s elder sister Jeni Wambui.
- Justice Mabeya dismissed an application by Ms Gacigi, who opposed the release of the funds on grounds that she was a beneficiary.
Retired President Uhuru Kenyatta’s brother-in-law Udi Gecaga has won a court battle to access Sh55.9 million being contested by his stepmother, Ms Margaret Gacigi, in a long-running dispute involving one of Kenya's wealthiest families.
High Court judge Alfred Mabeya directed that the money, which had been deposited in a joint interest-earning account in June 2015, be released to Mr Udi’s lawyers –Hamilton Harrison & Mathews – in seven days.
Mr Udi is the former husband of Uhuru’s elder sister Jeni Wambui.
Justice Mabeya dismissed an application by Ms Gacigi, who opposed the release of the funds on grounds that she was a beneficiary.
She stated that it would be prejudicial to her if the court granted Mr Udi the orders to access the money as she would lose out and have no other source of income.
Ms Gacigi had claimed in court papers that Mr Udi fraudulently and illegally forged the transfer of 3.28 million shares held by her husband, the late Bethuel Mareka Gecaga, in Gateway Insurance to Quinvest Limited sometime in 2012.
The widow then sought an injunction and a declaration that the transfer of the shares was non-procedural because they belonged to the late Mareka and by extension to herself as the spouse.
On instructions of the court, the funds were deposited in an account at Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB) in the joint names of Hamilton Harrison & Mathews and J.M Njenga & Co. Advocates.
“What this court deciphers is that the plaintiff (Ms Gacigi) is determined to avoid the contractual terms of the consent. It is unsettling that the plaintiff who brought the suit before the commercial court and dragged the defendants into litigation, is the same one who now contends that the issue can only be determined in the succession court,” the judge said.
In the matter before Milimani Commercial and Tax Division court, Ms Gacigi (suing on her own behalf and as the next friend of Mareka Gecaga) is the plaintiff while Gateway Insurance, Mr Udi and Quinvest Ltd are the defendants.
Mr Udi told the court that the funds had been kept from him for six years and it was in the interest of justice that the money be released.
A previous application by Ms Gacigi on the money was dismissed by the High Court and later by the Court of Appeal.
She later moved to the Family Division of the High Court seeking the release of the money pending the determination of the succession suit.
She argued that her application had a high chance of success as the funds belonged to her late husband and the succession court was the best forum to settle the matter.
Mr Udi had maintained that the shares were transferred with the knowledge and consent of Mareka Gecaga and the transaction was in a transparent and legal manner.
He added that the power of attorney he held was validly given by his father and that Ms Gacigi was never a shareholder of Gateway Insurance.
Further, he said the shares were transferred before she got married to Mareka Gecaga and, therefore, there was no obligation to seek her consent.
Ms Gacigi, however, said her husband, at about 90, was incapacitated and had lost memory for a long time. She argued that he was not in a position to execute documents or make a rational judgement.
The former chairman of Lonrho East Africa gave a detailed account of how his father started the exercise of planning his estate in February 2007.
Subsequently, on March 9, Mareka Gecaga executed a deed of transfer of his shares in the company to Quinvest and general power of attorney to his son.
He then got married to Margaret Gacigi on August 31, 2007. Mr Udi urged the court to strike out Ms Gacigi’s case, saying she had no authority to file it.