Govt: Pattni Duty Free saga ‘a can of worms’

August 12, 2013 4:47 pm

, KAA-BILLBOARDNAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 12 – The government now finds itself in a fix following the eviction of businessman Kamlesh Pattni from the Duty Free shops at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA).

Transport and Infrastructure Cabinet Secretary Michael Kamau on Monday told the Parliamentary Committee on Transport, Public Works and Housing that the government was in a catch 22 situation over the matter and it was not sure how the billionaire ended up owning 70 percent of the commercial space at JKIA since 1989.

He said the complexities in the saga including the process in which the lease agreement between the Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) and the billionaire was signed risked opening up a can of worms if pursued.
The government however maintained that Pattni’s leases were illegally acquired.

“The truth is going to come out and this is a very intricate matter. We have not even had time to think and decide whether or not we are going to seek redress,” said the Cabinet Secretary.

KAA’s lawyer Fred Ngatia further quoted a former Solicitor General Benjamin Kubo as having said in 1993 that opening up investigations into the manner in which commercial space at the airport had been leased ‘would embarrass’ the government.

“I wish to state that House of Perfumes has committed a criminal offense and they cannot rely on an illegal provision in agreement to evade prosecution,” Kubo was quoted by Ngatia as having said.

“I wish to point however that a decision as to whether the culprits should be prosecuted or not requires careful consideration in view of the prominence they would put to the fact that they relied on an agreement signed by very senior officials of government. This may end up embarrassing the government.”

Reports also suggest that Pattni had sub-let the properties but Ngatia refused to comment on the issue.

He just maintained that that would be another illegality that KAA was not willing to get into yet.

“We don’t want to talk about an illegality when he (Pattni) is not here but he had been given 3,000 square meters of about 12 shops. If he had su-blet, that is without the knowledge or authorisation of the landlord,” said Ngatia.

Ngatia also maintained that the lease agreement had been signed by KAA and Pattni but not with the 600 plus tenants who suffered losses as a result.

The billionaire had leased out the properties through Diplomatic Duty Free and World Duty Free companies but KAA was not keen on renewing that business relationship.

So when his lease expired on July 31, KAA kicked him out of the airport’s premises.

Kamau was accompanied by KAA Managing Director Stephen Gichuki and JKIA’s head of security Eric Kiraithe.

But the committee meeting did not go without drama when Embakasi South MP Irshad Sumra started demanding for the resignation of Kamau, Gichuki and Kiraithe over the eviction saga.

His colleagues however ordered him to follow due diligence while urging the committee chairman to kick him out.


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