NAIROBI, September 3 – Businessman Kamlesh Pattni is now threatening to go to court to reclaim the Grand Regency Hotel if he is not given absolute amnesty by the State.,
Pattni maintained Wednesday that Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) and the Kenya Anti Corruption Commission (KACC) promised him that they would withdraw all civil cases against him including those related to the Goldenberg scandal in exchange for the hotel.
He maintained that any criminal cases he was facing were also to be dropped as part of the deal.
“I knew that I had a global settlement and not anything contrary to that. I can make it clear here and now that our courts are not closed. I shall not take any cheating on me lightly,” he said on his second day of testimony at the Commission of Inquiry into the controversial sale of the hotel.
The KACC has already denied offering Pattni blanket amnesty. In her testimony to the commission a fortnight ago, Deputy Director Fatuma Sichale said that the issue was abandoned after she made it clear to Pattni’s lawyer Adan Mohammed that it was not within their mandate to deal with criminal cases.
The businessman however claims that his understanding was total reprieve and nothing less.
“Their condition was that the hotel was a monument of Goldenberg and if I wanted to exorcise the ghost I had to surrender it,” he said.
Although the suit only touched on a Sh2.5 billion loan the CBK had advanced him, the settlement which the parties signed nevertheless has a clause indicating that the ‘CBK would abandon all claims it had against Pattni’.
Pattni has been in and out of court for the last 15 years on accusations that he swindled the State billions of shillings in the early 90s under a foreign currency exchange deal he had with Central Bank of Kenya.
The CBK took over the Hotel in 1994 as security to the loan.
Pattni told the commission that his efforts to repay the loan and get the hotel back were thwarted by certain arms of government that insisted on retaining the hotel. He said that he began the process of reclaiming his ‘freedom’ in 1997.
The CBK’s decision to sell the hotel through private treaty after Patti surrendered it led to public uproar and caused ripples in the Cabinet. Former Finance Minister Amos Kimunya under whose docket the bank fell was forced to resign over the purported sale.
The Commission was subsequently appointed by President Mwai Kibaki to investigate the sale with specific reference to the role played by Kimunya, CBK governor Njuguna Ndung’u and the bank’s Secretary Kennedy Abuga.
Although it has been sitting for close to two months, none of the three have appeared before the Inquiry yet.
Ndung’u, Abuga and Lands Minister James Orengo are expected to start giving evidence this week while Kimunya will be the final witness next Tuesday.
Pattni was also insistent that he was not aware of the planned sale of the hotel to Libyan investors by the time of the transfer.
He dismissed claims by lawyer Harrison Kinyanjui for Westmont Holding that he got part of the money from the sale and denied introducing the Libyans to the CBK. The government, he said, had refused to deal directly with him.
The following is an excerpt of the proceedings.
Kinyanjui: Can you confirm that you were in expectation of 1.1 billion shillings which is why you handed over the hotel.
Pattni: My lords may God forgive him for that saying so. It’s not true my lords.
In the meantime the commission’s secretary Anthony Ombwayo told Capital News that they are still waiting for a response from the Office of the President over their application for an extension of the time they need to gather evidence.
“We at least need one month to write the report; nobody can say that we are calling irrelevant witnesses,” he said.