A Nairobi court has frozen Sh252 million that was part of the compensation awarded to the late Kenyan politician and multi-party hero Kenneth Matiba over unlawful detention and torture.
This follows a dispute between the family of Matiba and lawyer John Mburu, who represented Matiba in court, leading to the award of compensation totaling Sh978 million in 2017. The amount has since increased to Sh1.5 billion after accruing interest.
In a ruling, High Court Justice Weldon Korir ordered Attorney-General Kihara Kariuki to deposit Sh252 million from the Sh1.5 billion in a court bank account.
This was after lawyer Mburu filed a case in court accusing the Treasury of secretly releasing hundreds of millions of shillings to the family of Matiba in a scheme to avoid paying him his rightful legal fees. In his ruling, Justice Korir said the court had the duty to protect lawyer Mburu, adding that a client cannot evade the responsibility of settling an advocate’s fees after a successful claim.
“Depositing the money in court will ensure that the same will be available for disbursement once the issue of the amount owing to Mburu is finally settled,” ruled judge Korir.
“An order is also issued directing the respondent to deposit in court on priority to any other payment, the sum of Sh252,392,618.48.”
The court heard that the administrators of Matiba’s estate, including Matiba’s widow Edith, daughter Susan and son Raymond, received Sh200 million in February, 2019 without involving lawyer Mburu. Judge Korir noted that the decision to pay the family directly without the lawyer’s knowledge was ill-advised.
“In colluding with the deceased’s family to pay them behind the applicant’s back, entering into the said secret agreement with them and paying the said sum to them directly behind the applicant’s back pursuant thereto, in violation of his lien on the decree for his fees and as the advocate on record for the deceased, the respondent was actuated by malice, nepotism and clear corruption,” lawyer Mburu said in court papers.
The judge further ruled that the government was free to disburse the remaining amount to the Matiba estate after depositing the Sh252 million in the court bank account.
“The moment he had notice from Mr. Mburu that the estate owed him money, he was under a duty to preserve the advocate’s fees,” the judge said.
Matiba passed away last year at the age of 85 after battling a long illness.