Saturday, 7 May 2016

A peek at Kenya’s most notorious litigants: Case of Bryan Yongo and Jacob Juma

Jacob Juma and Bryan Yongo. FILE PHOTOS
Jacob Juma and Bryan Yongo. FILE PHOTOS |  NATION MEDIA GROUP


  • Meet the sometimes friends-sometimes foes who don’t shy away from controversy even in the corridors of justice.
  • They appear to be wealthy, ruthless and overly litigious.
They appear to be wealthy, ruthless and overly litigious.
Some call them wheeler-dealers with a hint of scandal while others say they are simply shrewd businessmen with a nose for a good deal. They flaunt their apparent wealth and influence at the slightest opportunity and have no apologies to make for their brash and boisterous manner.
Bryan Yongo, who describes himself as a debt collector or credit management consultant, and Jacob Juma, a contractor who also has interest in mining, are the sometimes-friends-sometimes-bitter enemies who never shy away from controversy. 
But it is a litany of winding criminal and civil suits involving the two — against each other, separately suing other people, and filed against them — that reveals their intense level of animosity and their reputation as indefatigable litigants who have become a feature in the corridors of justice. 
Many court cases show the extent the two are willing to go in pursuit of their goals. Top lawyers, government officials, business partners, private companies, parastatals and banks have not been spared. For example, Mr Juma, who has amplified his activity on social media, has in recent months filed various cases against Deputy President William Ruto for alleged grabbing of public land.  
The recent incident where Mr Yongo was charged in court with threatening to kill Mr Juma adds to a horde of criminal and civil cases that dot their lives, many involving business deals gone awry.
On two occasions, Mr Yongo has unsuccessfully petitioned the court to release his licensed gun, which police confiscated.
High Court judge George Odunga, in his ruling, observed that a licensed firearm holder must handle his or her gun within the stipulated regulations of the licenser.
“A gun is not a toy or a fly whisk which you can brandish anywhere, anyhow. Its handling must come with responsibility,” said the judge.
Court documents in one of the criminal cases indicate that the two started engaging as early as in 1997 when Mr Juma supposedly contracted Mr Yongo to run some business errands for him.
They, however, fell out in March 2012 after Mr Yongo allegedly sent Mr Juma abusive messages and threats on his phone.
Mr Juma reported the matter to the Directorate of Criminal Investigation and Mr Yongo was subsequently charged before a Kiambu magistrate’s court. The latter challenged the prosecution before the High Court and the case is pending determination.
Last year, Mr Yongo was taken to court again charged with threatening to kill Mr Juma. He appeared before a Kibera court in December.
According to the charge sheet, he was found with a pistol and 20 bullets.
In a police statement, Mr Juma said he was in his house in Nairobi one evening when he saw Mr Yongo and a group of men camped at his gate. He claimed they were getting “ready to execute me”. 
But Mr Yongo defended himself saying the charges were brought against him to settle scores regarding extraneous issues between him, the police and Mr Juma. The case is also pending in court.
Mr Yongo is facing yet another criminal charge of threatening to kill two businessmen — Mr Atula Shantilla and Mr Vershi Shah. The case is yet to be determined.
Recently, Mr Yongo was allowed by a Nairobi magistrate to institute a private prosecution against Mr Juma on accusations that he forged a title deed to a piece of land worth more than Sh400 million.
He lodged the criminal case against Mr Juma on behalf of two complainants, Mr Ashock Rupshi Shah and Mr Hiten Kumar Raja, who are claiming ownership of the land in Nairobi’s Loresho area.
Mr Yongo said he filed the case after the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) failed to prosecute Mr Juma over alleged forgery and perjury.
“I decided to prosecute Mr Juma on the basis of sections 47, 48 and 258 of the Constitution because the DPP has failed or neglected to exercise his constitutional mandate and obligation despite overwhelming evidence being brought to the attention of his office,” says Mr Yongo in court documents.
Mr Yongo is also pursuing a criminal private prosecution against Mr Juma on grounds that the contractor has said on oath that he is a qualified engineer when he is not. The matter is pending in court.
In several media interviews, Mr Yongo boasts of how he made money at a tender age. He is never shy to show off his 30-room house in Nairobi’s leafy Kitisuru — complete with a gym, sauna, well stocked bar and in-house disco.
However, court documents in our possession show that he acquired the house in mysterious, if controversial, circumstances. Being a tenant for several years paying Sh199,650 in rent a month, Mr Yongo offered to buy the house for Sh45 million from Mr Jigisha Jani.
But he allegedly reneged on the agreement and the owner furnished the court with bounced cheques and several demand letters to Mr Yongo. The case is going on in court.
Apart from Mr Juma, Mr Yongo was involved in a fierce much publicised fight with prominent city lawyer Ahmednasir Abdullahi, another friend-turned-foe. He unsuccessfully filed a multiplicity of suits, and went before a parliamentary committee, as he sought to prove that Mr Abdullahi should be struck off the roll of advocates for allegedly acquiring his pupillage certificate fraudulently.
Mr Yongo was a clerk with the law firm of Mr Peter Simani, who has since died, where Mr Ahmednasir was a pupil before he started his own practice.
Another battlefront involving Mr Juma, Mr Yongo and Mr Abdullahi later surfaced over a contract for Erad Supplies to deliver 40,000 tonnes of maize to the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB). Mr Juma sued the State corporation seeking Sh500 million for alleged breach of contract.
He never supplied the maize but claimed he incurred heavy losses in profits and storage costs. The case was later referred to an arbitrator, Mr Evans Thiga Gaturu, who ruled in favour of Mr Juma’s company in July 2009 and awarded Erad $3,106,000 (Sh266.9 million). The dispute is pending at the appellate court after NCPB lost the case at the High Court.
Mr Yongo, who later alleged fraud in the contract between Erad and NCPB, claimed he was contracted by the company as a debt collector and expected to be paid at least Sh25 million upon successful completion of the job. On the other hand, Mr Abdullahi offered Mr Juma legal services to recover the money from NCPB. But Mr Juma dismissed Mr Yongo’s claims as the “fabrications of a con man”.
A habitual litigant, Mr Yongo has previously lodged winding up suits against the fallen Invesco Insurance demanding Sh14 million in debt collection fees. He obtained orders and disposed the firm’s assets in a public auction to recover the debt.
He again filed a winding up case against Equity Bank contending Neptune Credit was owed Sh10.2 million by the bank as commission for collecting a debt. He alleged the bank had reneged on the payment.
In defence, Equity said the agreement between the bank and Neptune was clear with regard to its scope and duration and termed Mr Yongo’s actions as a “feeble attempt to bully the bank, under a threat of negative publicity and embarrassment, into paying the sums that are not due”. The case was thrown out.
Subsequently, Mr Yongo and his company were fined Sh500,000 each or serve 30 days in jail for contempt of court from then High Court judge Muga Apondi for filing the winding up suit despite a court order stopping them from doing so.
Like his adversary, Mr Juma has also filed many cases against individuals, banks and business partners. One of the cases he lodged was against former President Daniel arap Moi’s daughter Jennifer 10 years ago, after claiming to have bought 250 acres of land from her. Despite Mr Moi’s efforts to end the dispute amicably, the matter ended up in court.
The businessman recently sued a company accusing it of grabbing some 1,600 acres worth 1.5 billion meant for the development of a sewer treatment plant in Ruai area of Nairobi.
Mr Juma argued that before the transfer and registration of the land in favour of Renton Company on April 12, 1996, the property had already been acquired by the government for public use.
He has also filed two cases against Deputy President Ruto. In one of the suits, Mr Juma wants Mr Ruto to return more than Sh730 million to the Kenya Pipeline Company after a fraud case against the Deputy President was dismissed by the court.
Mr Juma claims the money was payment the DP allegedly received for selling a parcel of land in Ngong Forest to KPC.
Mr Ruto was charged together with a former aide to Mr Moi, Mr Joshua Kulei and Baringo Central MP Sammy Mwaita in 2003. But the three were acquitted by then Nairobi chief magistrate Gilbert Mutembei for lack of evidence.
The case collapsed after the prosecution’s key witness, Ms Hellen Njue, KPC’s chief finance manager, failed to appear in court and testify.
Mr Juma has also sued over the controversial Weston Hotel in Lang’ata Road, Nairobi, which he links to Mr Ruto and claims the land on which it is built was grabbed from the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority.
In yet another twist, Mr Juma sued Mining Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala after the licence of Cortec Kenya Ltd, in which he is a director, was cancelled. He also alleged Mr Balala had demanded a bribe of Sh80 million.

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