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Tycoon’s sons in vicious fight for control of Nairobi Ambassadeur hotel; KRA demands Sh150m Tax bill

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Ambassadeur Hotel in Nairobi’s central business district.

Ambassadeur Hotel in Nairobi’s central business district.

Seven sons of deceased businessman Samuel Maina have opened a vicious court battle for control of the multi-billion shilling real estate empire they inherited from their father, including Nairobi’s iconic Ambassadeur Hotel.

Four of the Maina brothers have accused their siblings of taking exclusive control of family-owned businesses and locking them out of proceeds realised from the various commercial ventures.

Francis Chege, Joseph Macharia, James Kihara and Dedan Muthaiga have sued their brothers, John Kaguma, Stanley Kariuki and Charles Kanyunga, seeking to stop them from collecting rent from the disputed properties until the suit is heard and determined.

Mr Chege, Mr Macharia, Mr Kihara and Mr Muthaiga claim in the suit papers that their brothers appointed Paragon Property Consultants to collect rent from the family-owned properties without consulting other siblings, who are also beneficiaries of their father’s business empire.

The four petitioners say the collection of rent and other income from the family’s properties is exclusively in the hands of Mr Kaguma, Mr Kanyunga and Mr Muthaiga, yet all brothers are shareholders and directors of the holding company that runs the family businesses.

But Mr Kaguma, Mr Kariuki and Mr Kanyunga argue that their brothers are not listed among shareholders of Ambassadeur Investments Kenya and should therefore not be allowed to meddle with the firm’s affairs.

The duo reckons that Mr Chege, Mr Macharia, Mr Kihara and Mr Muthaiga are only shareholders of Ambassadeur Investments, hence have no say in income collection.

The family runs its businesses under a holding company, Ambassadeur Investments Kenya Limited, which has several businesses in Nairobi, Athi River and Murang’a.

Flagship business

Nairobi’s Ambassadeur Hotel in the Nairobi central business district, however, remains the flagship business, which has also let out space on its ground floor to several businesses.

The Maina family also owns several shops, flats and the Oil Libya petrol station in Nairobi’s Spring Valley.

Also listed under the family’s holding company is a house and shops in Mlango Kubwa, a stall in Kibera Market, a bungalow in Buruburu Estate, Bilmas Hotel in Nairobi’s central business district, a building in Muranga’s Gikoe Shopping Centre and an undisclosed number of godowns in Athi River.

The High Court in May 2012 ordered that the nine businesses in the Maina family empire be managed by Lloyd Masika until the suit is heard and determined.

“It is hereby ordered that Lloyd Masika be and is hereby appointed to be the manager of the properties registered under the umbrella of Ambassadeur Investment Kenya Limited with effect from June 1, 2012,” said the court order.

Justice Grace Nzioka has directed the seven brothers to appear before her for a full hearing of the suit on April 10. The order appointing Lloyd Masika as manager of Ambassadeur Investments is expected to lapse when Justice Nzioka delivers a final judgment on the suit.

Court documents indicate that the late Samuel Maina acquired Ambassadeur Hotel in 2004, but does not specify whether he bought it from the hotel’s founders —Gurcharan Singh Vohra and former Kirinyaga Central MP John Ngata Kariuki — or how much the businessman paid for the prime property.

The dispute has now sucked in Lloyd Masika following a spat with two of the brothers over tenancy space at Ambassadeur Hotel.

Lloyd Masika in November last year leased space on Ambassadeur Hotel’s ground floor to electronics retailer Mobitel Express, sparking protest from Mr Kaguma and Mr Kanyunga who insist that the space should have been let to another firm —Jaydis Investments Limited.

Mobitel has, through Hassan Lakicha & Company Advocates, sued the Business and Rent Tribunal, Lloyd Masika and Jaydis seeking to be declared tenant of the space in dispute.

Disputed space

But Mr Kaguma and Mr Kanyunga through Ambassadeur Investments have applied to join the suit and requested Justice George Odunga to declare Jaydis the legitimate tenant of the disputed space.

“On or about November 3, 2016 Lloyd Masika leased to me shop number 3 Ambassadeur Hotel and I paid the sum of Sh1.3 million. Mobitel’s possession was, however, curtailed by John Kaguma Maina and Charles Kanyunga Maina, who obstructed it and denied it access to the said premises,” Ismail Durrow, a Mobitel director, says in suit papers.

Mr Durrow adds that Lloyd Masika last November wrote to his firm confirming that Mobitel is the genuine tenant as it had paid rent and the assets manager had already done due diligence to establish that it was a legitimate business.

The 2012 order appointing Lloyd Masika as managers of Ambassadeur Investments also directed that all rent and income collected be deposited in a joint bank account. The joint account has Lloyd Masika, a representative of the plaintiffs and one of the defendants.

All funds going out of the bank account must be agreed upon by all the representatives.

The brothers had in 2012 failed to agree on a firm to run Ambassadeur Investments, forcing then judge Joseph Mutava to pick from a list of proposed asset managers.

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KRA slaps Ambassadeur owners with Sh150m bill demand

The Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) is demanding Sh150 million from the owners of Nairobi’s Ambassadeur Hotel, who are embroiled in a battle for control of their late father’s vast estate.

The taxman has already recovered Sh114 million in corporation tax after attaching two bank accounts held at NIC and Co-operative banks.

Ambassadeur Investments has, however, obtained a court order barring any further withdrawals by the taxman.

Details of the KRA’s move have been revealed in a suit filed by Ambassadeur Investments, owned by the seven sons of deceased tycoon Samuel Maina, opposing the taxman’s demand.

Justice Roselyn Aburili has ordered for the temporary unfreezing of the two accounts and stopped the taxman from collecting money from them until she has determined the suit filed by Ambassadeur Investments.

The KRA is yet to respond to the suit, but Lady Justice Aburili has directed it to file a replying affidavit before February 28 when she will hear the matter and give further directions.

“On December 6, 2016 we received a letter sent by the KRA in which they acknowledged that they had received Sh114 million from our bank and they demanded for payment of the balance. The sum being demanded is exorbitant and illegal.

“As opposed to rushing to order our accounts be frozen, the KRA ought to have undertaken an assessment as provided for by the Tax Procedures Act, 2015. All the rental income realized from the assets of Ambassadeur Investments has always been held at the two accounts,” says James Kihara Maina, one of the Ambassadeur directors.

Ambassadeur says that since the KRA froze its accounts in November, its tenants have been unable to remit rent for spaces let in its various properties in Nairobi, Athi River and Murang’a.

“Since Lloyd Masika was mandated by the court to be collecting rent on behalf of Ambassadeur Investments, none of the shareholders has ever withdrawn money from the two accounts.

Ambassadeur Investments wants the judge to order the KRA to refund the Sh114 million collected from its bank accounts and to carry out an assessment of the firm’s books to determine how much is due in corporation tax.

The seven brothers are in a separate suit fighting over control and management of family assets.

Francis Chege, Joseph Macharia, James Kihara and Dedan Muthaiga have sued their brothers John Kaguma, Stanley Kariuki and Charles Kanyunga to stop them from collecting rent until the suit has been determined by the High Court.

Mr Chege, Mr Macharia, Mr Kihara and Mr Muthaiga claim in the suit that their brothers appointed Paragon Property Consultants to collect rent from family-owned properties without consulting other siblings.

 

-www.businessdailyafrica.com

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