Our contributing editor Mickie Ojijo narrates the ordeal of a German man who went to Kenya to invest his life savings in a business venture only to be duped by his local manager, a woman. All the efforts of the German to get justice have so far been frustrated by the police and courts in the East African country.
Rudolf Marquardt, a computer specialist in Germany, travelled to Kenya for the first time in 2001 on the invitation of a Kenyan lady he had met earlier that year in Germany.
Upon her return to Kenya, the lady convinced Marquardt to join her in Mombasa where the two spent Christmas together and discussed marriage prospects. A year later, in 2002, the two tied the knot in Germany. The marriage lasted 5 years and was officially dissolved in 2007, the same year their second child was born.
The divorce notwithstanding, Marquardt maintained a good rapport with the family of his ex-wife, who were originally from western Kenya, in Kisumu. In 2009, Marquardt ex-in-laws persuaded him to set up a home within the district.
Kenya’s weather and the hospitality of the people around him made Kisumu the ideal investment location and retirement domicile.
Unbeknown that he was being set up, Marquardt withdrew funds from his private pension scheme and took a bank loan ready to embark on a venture that would later leave him with a long lasting pecuniary loss.
Returning to Kenya in 2010 as an investor, Marquardt acquired two parcels of land and a home. As a resident in Germany, he needed a caretaker to manage his properties in Kenya. On the recommendation of his in-laws, Mrs Valery K. was brought into the venture. To secure her commitment, Valery was allocated one out of the 10,000 shares of the registered company.
Part of the capital was injected by Marquardt into a hotel and fast-food restaurant within the city of Kisumu to sustain his adopted family.
In his plans of starting a small scale poultry and dairy farm, Marquardt bought four cows and a large number of free range chickens to supply fresh milk, eggs and chickens.
As a caretaker and shareholder, Valery was allocated one wing of the residence which she occupied with her child while a separate house for her was under construction.
Two years along the line, Marquardt unearthed two incidents of massive theft, forcing him to relieve Valery of her duties, but he later reinstated her after friends interceded on her behalf. However, he relocated the investment office to Nairobi.
Acting on suspicion, the wife of Marquardt’s lawyer in Kisumu warned him of suspicious activities of her husband and Valery, whom she claimed had ruined her marriage.
But it was too late. Not only had the business been sold, but also the prime property including the house and household goods were lost in unexplained circumstances. Not even the animals were spared.
Marquardt realised too late that the lady he had entrusted his property to was in a network of people with questionable morals. She was unscrupulous and set out to exploit him from the very beginning.
On arrival in Kisumu to investigate the matter, Marquardt was served with a fictitious court order with explicit instructions to keep a 100-metre distance from his business premises for six months. In addition, Valery got a forged court ruling dissolving a purported marriage between her and Marquardt that never took place, a case that has been deliberately stalled in court.
Seeking legal assistance became an exercise in futility. Marquardt gave a statement to the Police. Valery was arrested, only to be released the following day without any charges.
The lawyer, who was recommended by friends to take up the case and protect Marquardt’s property, suddenly withdrew his services after obtaining detailed information and documents of the investment.
What followed was an ordeal that has changed Marquardt’s life. Another lawyer who introduced him to a “High Court” attorney resorted to extortion when he demanded Ksh 1m (about 8,500 euros) without which he would sell everything. However, the businessman declined and nothing came out of it.
The most dumbfounding episode was when, in September 2013, Valery’s lawyer – true to his word, filed a divorce case to dissolve a presumed marriage to Valerie in which Marquardt had never taken part.
On the property investments, the lawyer presented forged title deed and other documents to claim transfer of property to Valery. It is not clear hitherto, as to what documents the Registrar of Lands used to process the transfer of property rights after rejecting the certified copies of the title deeds.
During his court appearance, Marquardt presented previous property owners, six witnesses and original title deeds, together with the Sales Agreements. The Lands Registrar had no option but to concede that the transfer to Valery effected a month earlier was indeed illegal.
Soon after, the dejected investor, nevertheless, went ahead to comply with a court summon and travelled the 15,000km from Germany to attend the hearing but, neither Valery nor her lawyer was present. The courtroom was locked with a notice pinned on the door, cancelling business for the day.
In what appeared to be a deliberate scheme to frustrate Marquardt, the police investigating officer did not bother to communicate an indefinite adjournment of the case to the German. He waited for Marquardt to arrive in Kenya only to inform him of a new date of the hearing, and that vital copies of evidence to the property case were missing from the file. The hearing could not proceed as scheduled.
Several visits to the Police station did not help. On one occasion, the office of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) saw it fit to give the investor a police escort to the office of Kisumu CCIO Nyanza as there’re threats to his life.
Marquardt was referred back to the same investigation department soon after the Nairobi CID left. To his astonishment, he was told his case had stalled because of missing case files. In addition, to his dismay he was told that officers who first recorded the case had been transferred and the statement could not be retrieved.
It was now clear to the distraught German investor of the extent of the corrupt syndicate in which he was now caught. What appeared clearly was that there was no solution in sight. He sought the intervention of officials at the HUDUMA house, a ‘one stop shop’ of public service delivery in Kenya, but was referred back to the Ombudsman based at the judiciary which was to be his third visit to the institution. He was warned not to return but pursue his ordeal at the Kisumu law courts where the Police were less willing to prosecute the case.
All his efforts to engage the Kenya embassy in Berlin for assistance have been futile. The embassy only acknowledged receipt of his complaints and advised him to wait for response from Kenya but nothing has come since 2013.
As a result of his troubles, the investor suffered a stroke upon his return to Germany early last year and spent close to 7 months in the intensive care unit and rehabilitation wing of a hospital while servicing a bank loan looted in Kenya.
Efforts by the Kenya Development Associates (KDA) in Frankfurt to intervene came to an abrupt halt as a result of non-cooperation of the Kenyan police.
The question on Marquardt’s mind is: if the Police, Judiciary and Kenyan lawyers cannot help, where else can one seek justice in Kenya?