Kenya's Most Authoritative Political Newspaper

Citizen Weekly

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

KARUME PROPERTY SAGA CONTINUES

Children of former politician-cum-business magnate the late Njenga Karume now want the Trust left in-charge of his property to revert the estate to the family. Three of the children yesterday issued an advisory to any potential buyers of the family property that may have been put on sale to desist from acquiring it, warning of legal consequences.
This came a day after the People Daily revealed how Karume’s monumental estate has ran into deep financial problems that have seen the closure of some flagship ventures he built over six decades and strict financial cuts to the beneficiaries. The estate is managed by the Njenga Karume Trust (NKT) that the former Kiambaa MP and Cabinet minister appointed before his death.
Two of his daughters and a son warned yesterday that anyone who acquires property ranging from land companies, housing and other property “was doing so at their own risk” as they told the Trust to stop acting on behalf of the beneficiaries. The three, Lucy Karume, Jane Mukuhi and Samuel Wanjema also want the Trust members to step aside “so that we can salvage what is left of the expansive family wealth.”
“It is clear if they do not step aside, all the wealth my father built would be bled to nought,” said Wanjema. “We want the Trust to step aside so that we can salvage what is left. We cannot sit around and see people squander our father’s wealth,” said Mukuhi in Nairobi. In a terse statement, the trio said: “The Trust lacks the legal backing to execute the will of my father, so we are warning anyone doing business with them purportedly on behalf of Karume’s children is doing so at their own risk.”
They spoke even as new details emerged on the level of financial problems the Karume estate has sunk into. They claimed Karume had left more than Sh250 million in his bank accounts at the time of his death, but said the estate had run into debts amounting to over half a billion shillings.
“Our father was debt-free at the time of his death, now we are talking of a Sh600 million debt incurred through imprudent means yet they don’t want to let us in on the financial details,” said Lucy. According to the siblings, efforts over a three-year period to consult with the Trust over some of the investment decisions they had made in the past have borne no fruit.
“We have suffered in silence in a bid to protect the name and image of our father. But we can no longer keep quiet as his hard work is bled to death,” Jane, who on Monday wept as she narrated the travails of the beneficiaries of the estate, said yesterday. Wanjema said: “Some of those in the Trust are family members and we were brought up never to disrespect our elders.
That’s why we gave them time to make right their ways. But they have failed,” he said. Reached for comment, George Ngugi Waireri, the chair of the Njenga Karume Trust distanced himself from the financial woes of the estate telling People Daily he is not involved. “I am not the executioner of the Trust so I have nothing to do with it,” he said on phone.
He spoke even as it emerged that some of the beneficiaries have been asked to look for cheaper schools that the Trust can afford.  On Monday, family members showed the People Daily documents in which the Trust had warned beneficiaries to brace for tough times ahead, citing “financial constraints.”
Yesterday, the children demanded the monies put in a special accounts be used to cater for the education of the children. In a memo to the family issued by the Trust towards the end of December, last year, and followed by immediate suspension of monthly allowances disbursed by the Njenga Karume Trust to all beneficiaries, the Trust advised that it had effectively become broke.
“Due to inherent cash flow constraints, due to lower than expected performance of the three holding companies, resulting in non remittance of dividends, the NKT regrets that it will not disburse the monthly allowances to the beneficiaries with effect from December, 2014,” the memo stated.
Village Inn, an establishment in Kiambu town closed shop two years ago in unexplained circumstances as did the prime Indian Ocean Beach Club at Diani, South Coast. The Karume children had taken the Trust to court last year, but the two sides were given time to resolve their differences amicably, which has apparently failed. However, not all the siblings are in dispute with the Trust.