Kenya: Another ‘Son’ Eyes Kanyotu Billions

The now 13-year-old fight for control of the business empire built by James Kanyotu is set to take another detour, as yet another individual has claimed to be the former spymaster’s son.

On October 20, 2020, Martin Njuguna asked the High Court to temporarily halt the distribution of Kanyotu’s wealth until it determines whether he is entitled to a slice of the multibillion-shilling estate.

Kanyotu died on February 13, 2008 without a will, sparking a high-stakes fight in the courts, with three different households claiming him as their patriarch.

At the time of his death, the public was aware that Kanyotu had one wife, Mary, who bore him four children– Sandra, John, Stephen and Christopher.

But Ms Jane Gathoni, Ms Margaret Nyakinyua and Ms Mercy Mathenge claimed to have had relationships with the former head of the Directorate of Security Intelligence. Mr Njuguna now says that he is Kanyotu’s son and that he only learned of plans to distribute the vast estate through media reports.

“Mr Kanyotu during his lifetime maintained and supported me financially and even settled my educational needs … but my mother has since died and that is the reason I had not taken any steps by virtue of not knowing where to start,” Mr Njuguna says.

A DNA test revealed that Kanyotu had nine children– Grace Nyawira, Christine Wangari, Stephanie Njeri, George Irungu, Rose Nyawera, Christopher Ngata, John Kariuki, Sandra Gathoni and George Samuel Kimondo.

Kanyotu’s wealth

The same test excluded Willy Kihara Njoki from being Kanyotu’s son, but he challenged the results and requested that a new on be conducted. Mr Njoki has filed a fresh application seeking to reinstate court orders barring dealings in a 500-acre plot in Thika.

The land was sold to Trendsetters Investments Limited in 2011 for Sh700 million. Trendsetters then sold the land to Marriot International Limited for an undisclosed amount.

Mr Njoki has claimed in court that both Trendsetters and Marriott International are owned by controversial businessman and the Sh5.8 billion Goldenberg scam architect, Kamlesh Pattni.

Marriott International has opposed Mr Njoki’s push to stop its dealings in the Thika land, arguing that the move could interfere with the rights of several other individuals who have bought part of the disputed property and put up homes and business parks.

The company also insists that it has no relationship with Mr Pattni “whether by shareholding, directorship or otherwise”. The firm adds that the Thika property has never been part of Mr Kanyotu’s estate.

Kanyotu’s wealth, estimated to be over Sh20 billion, is invested in several properties, including three investment companies: Half Moon, Full Moon and Cloud Limited.

He had shares in Barclays Bank, Sameer Group, Kenindia Assurance, Kentmere (1986) Ltd, Middle East Bank, Kenya Tea Development Agency KTDA), Kenya Melamine Manufacturers, and Collindale Security.

He was also a shareholder in Acacia Court, Acacia Renovators, Pine Court, Sonara Kwakanja Ltd, Shylocks Ltd and Metropolitan Health and owned huge chunks of land and buildings in Nairobi, Mombasa, Kiambu, Gilgil, South Nyanza, Kirinyaga and Nyandarua.

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