NAIROBI, September 24 – It has now emerged that businessman Kamlesh Pattni was privy to the sale of Grand Regency Hotel to Libyan investors, contrary to his claim earlier that he had been kept in the dark.
Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) Governor Professor Njuguna Ndung’u told the Commission probing the sale of the hotel on Wednesday that he received a letter from Mr Pattni in September last year, inquiring about the intended sale of the hotel to a Libyan company.
Interestingly, Prof Ndung’u noted, the letter came just two days after the CBK boss met with the Libyan ambassador to discuss the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed by Presidents Muammar Gaddafi and Mwai Kibaki during the latter’s official visit to Libya.
Prof Ndung’u also said that he never briefed the Kenya Anti Corruption Commission (KACC) Director Justice Aaron Ringera over the sale, on assumption that a copy of the MOU had been sent to the commission.
He, however, admitted that CBK and KACC held a brainstorming session to chart the best way forward in disposing of the hotel, out of which parties agreed a formidable way. This, in his words, involved the appointment of a receiver manager to run the hotel on behalf of the bank.
Mr Pattni had denied knowledge of the sale of the hotel to a Libyan company during his cross examination at the commission, saying he was constantly kept in the dark and only learnt about it in the press.
Meanwhile, the governor denied claims that he may have influenced the valuation of the hotel, as implied by Lands Minister James Orengo.
“I don’t have any knowledge about valuations, so I did not influence the process,” said Prof Ndung’u.
The CBK governor was responding to questions by lawyer Steven Mwenesi representing Adan, Wetangula & Makokha and Company Advocates, which has been mentioned in the controversy.
He equally defended the move to liquidate the hotel, saying it was the best way of settling the ‘long protracted controversy surrounding the multi-billion shilling business’.
He told the Justice (rtd) Majjid Cockar-led commission, that his role in the sale was primarily to ensure CBK recovered money owed to it by Kamlesh Pattni, which amounted to Sh2.5 billion.
Prof Ndung’u insistently said that he only took the decisive step, after carefully considering professional advice from both legal officers and valuers of the hotel, whom, he openly acknowledged, he had ‘no reason to doubt’.
“My role as head of CBK, who came in at the time this issue was still being pursued after 15 years, was to ensure that we comply with board resolutions of management, and try to provide information as required to ensure that we solve the problem of Grand regency,” he explained.
The Cockar commission is seeking to unravel the roles that former Finance Minister Amos Kimunya, CBK legal Secretary Kennedy Abuga and Governor Prof Ndung’u played in the sale.