The family of the late politician and businessman Lawrence Nginyo Kariuki are locked in a fight over the management and distribution of his estate valued at nearly Sh4 billion, marking the latest high-profile succession dispute in Kenya.
Mr Kariuki died on February 24, 2020, leaving a vast estate, including real estate, farming, bank deposits and government bonds, and a will that is being contested in court by one of his children.
He is survived by his wife Margaret Wangari Nginyo and her six children – Jane Wambui Kiragu, James Anthony Kariuki, Rose Wanjiru Kariuki, Sarah Mukuhi Kariuki, Scholastica Njeri Kariuki and Silas Macharia Kariuki.
Mr Kariuki also had three other children out of wedlock – Brenda Nyambura Kiragu, Alex Ndoria Karuri and Austin Wachira Karungo.
Brenda, a lawyer who says she enjoyed a close relationship with her father and represented him in several legal matters, told the Nairobi High Court’s Family Division that her stepmother and her children are already appropriating the deceased’s estate illegally.
She also wants the court to nullify her father’s will of June 13, 2014 which excluded her and the two other children not born out of wedlock, saying the document is either a forgery or the author did not have free will at the time of its creation.
Mr Kariuki’s wealth declared in the will has also been contested, prompting a petition to seek an investigator to unearth hidden assets, especially millions of shillings in undisclosed banks accounts.
“It is therefore impossible that the deceased would then make a will where he forgets or fails to remember that I am his biological daughter,” said Brenda.
“Further that the deceased would also forget to acknowledge other two children, but only remembers Margaret Wangari and her children.”
Brenda has also sued lenders — Consolidated Bank, I&M Bank #ticker:I&M and Cooperative Bank #ticker:COOP — over hundreds of millions of shillings in accounts and for offering Margaret’s children access to the finances without letters of administration.
The letters of administration were to be issued after placements of the names of the executors of the will in a Kenya Gazette notice and the expiry of a 30-day period for no objections.
The notice was placed on the Kenya Gazette on August 21.
Brenda has objected, putting the court’s approval to the executors of the will on ice.
“That on March 10, 2020 the respondents applied for and transferred Sh1.1 million from the deceased’s account number 10011200000914 domiciled at Consolidated Bank of Kenya purporting to be ordering for the transfer of the money as the Lawrence Nginyo Kariuki who was deceased at the time having died on February 24, 2020,” she said in a sworn affidavit.
“That the respondents continue to collect rental income, receive payments for and on behalf of deceased’s estate and misuse the same without accountability and or an order of the Honourable Court as it is required before applying, disbursing and or using any property belonging to the deceased person.”
In an application to obtain letters of administration to manage Mr Kariuki’s estate, the proposed trustees and executors are listed as Margaret, Jane, James, Scholastica and Silas.
The applicants acknowledge that the deceased had a total of nine children but Brenda says the three children born out of wedlock will not be treated equally, prompting the legal fight. She cites their exclusion from the newspaper notice announcing Mr Kariuki’s death and attempts to block them from participating in his burial, which were only thwarted by a court order.
Part of Brenda’s evidence backing her petition is the result of a paternity test that shows the deceased is her father with a 99.9 percent accuracy.
Mr Kariuki had a long history in politics but his most recent prominent role came in 2000 when he founded and became chairman of The National Alliance (TNA) party.
The party was President Uhuru Kenyatta’s ticket to power in 2013. It was later dissolved in 2016 when it merged with the United Republican Party (URP) and others to form the ruling Jubilee Party.
He failed to clinch several electoral offices, including the Kiambu Senate seat in 2017 which was won by Kimani Wamatangi.
Mr Kariuki was more successful in business, amassing a fortune that places his heirs among the richest families in the country. Court documents show he owned land and buildings in Nairobi, Kiambu and Ngong valued at a total of Sh3.2 billion. His most famous property is Nginyo Towers in Nairobi’s central business district.
He owned a 120-acre farmland in Tigoni, Kiambu, on which he grew coffee and tea and kept livestock. The farm has monthly expenses of Sh1.7 million per month and makes a small profit.
Mr Kariuki had a total of Sh335 million in fixed deposit accounts, with most of the cash parked at Consolidated Bank of Kenya. Cash in his other savings accounts, including at Equity and Habib Bank, have not been disclosed.
His investment firms, including Nginyo Investments and Pema Holdings, have assets of Sh221.3 million.
He had also invested Sh84.1 million in government bonds generating an annual interest income of Sh9.4 million.
Mr Kariuki owned shares in a few Nairobi Securities Exchange-listed firms with a market value of about Sh18.5 million. His biggest stock market investment is 101,200 shares of East African Breweries #ticker:EABL (EABL) currently valued at Sh17.2 million.
He owned several luxury cars and farm machinery valued at Sh33.1 million, including a Toyota Landcruiser and Mercedes Benz.
Mr Kariuki’s estate has minimal debt and has significant liquidity, with cash and cash equivalents representing about 10.5 percent of the total assets.
The court case threatens to freeze the deceased’s estate that would leave the heirs with nearly Sh400 million each, assuming equal distribution to Margaret and the nine children.
“Not only does the alleged will not name, mention and or list three of the deceased’s children Alex Ndoria Karuri, Austin Wachira Karungo and objector herein, it does not provide anything for them,” Brenda said in her objection to the grant of letters of administration.
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