NAIROBI, September 2 – Businessman Kamlesh Pattni Tuesday distanced himself from the sale of the Grand Regency Hotel, saying that he wasn’t aware of any intended sale to the Libyan Investors.
Pattni who was the 16th witness at the Commission of Inquiry into the sale said in handing over the hotel, he was only interested in clearing his name and freeing himself from court cases.
Pattni stated: “My Lords to me the thing was I am surrendering, I didn’t know whether they make a ministry out of the hotel or selling it or transferring; as long as I got a ‘global settlement.”
“Although I read in the settlement that they were saying to sell, it didn’t occur to me that there are a hundred ways of selling one thing.”
He further told the Justice (rtd) Majjid Cockar-led Inquiry that he was not directly involved in the transactions as the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) had insisted that they would only deal with his lawyers.
Pattni relinquished ownership of the hotel in April this year to settle a claim of Sh2.5 billion he owed the CBK.
The transfer was facilitated by the Kenya Anti Corruption Commission (KACC) on behalf of the bank.
He said CBK had frustrated his efforts to pay the debt, insisting that they wanted the hotel.
The businessman also claimed that in the transfer agreement he signed with CBK and KACC, the hotel was supposed to be sold and the money used to help the poor. His debt, he said, had already been written off.
“I had written in my declaration that I was surrendering the hotel for the money to go to the poverty alleviation not to the Consolidated Fund,” Pattni revealed.
The businessman is expected to table the declaration on Wednesday when he faces questions by lawyers at the Inquiry.
The subject of blanket amnesty was revisited with Pattni maintaining that he got total reprieve from the State after handing over the hotel.
He claimed that the CBK was to abandon all claims against him including criminal cases.
KACC has already denied offering Pattni blanket amnesty. Deputy Director Fatuma Sichale told the Commission two weeks ago that she had clarified to Pattni’s lawyer Adan Mohammed that the institution was not mandated to deal with criminal cases.
CBK’s decision to sell the hotel through private treaty caused a public uproar and ripples in the unity Cabinet. Former Finance Minister Amos Kimunya under whose docket the bank fell was forced to resign.
The Cockar Commission was appointed by President Mwai Kibaki to investigate the sale with specific reference to Kimunya, CBK governor Njuguna Ndung’u and Secretary Kennedy Abuga.
Although it has been operational for close to two months, none of the three has appeared before the Inquiry.
Ndung’u and Abuga are expected this week while Kimunya will testify next Monday.