How rogue lawyers use farmers’ details to steal from sugar firms - Breaking Kenya News

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How rogue lawyers use farmers’ details to steal from sugar firms

 

Mr Stephen Ongubo allegedly filed a case against Transmara Sugar Company in 2018, seeking to compel the miller to pay him outstanding dues for sugarcane delivered to the factory.

It would pass off as a routine case between a farmer and a miller, except it wasn’t.

Mr Ongubo had died in 2015 at Nyangena Hospital in Kisii town.

The man’s family, from South Mugirango constituency in Kisii County, say they were not privy to the civil suit and had not instructed any lawyer to file it on their behalf. After all, their father was not owed any dues.

His son, Mr Zedekiah Nyokangi, 57, said the family was stunned when they were informed about the claim pending in court.

“My father did not have any unpaid claims at Transmara Sugar Company before his death. We are shocked that some people are using a deceased man’s name to commit fraud,” Mr Nyokangi said.

Transmara Sugar legal officer Samuel Kalu said this is one of the strangest cases in a growing list of what the firm has come to learn are fictitious claims against the miller.

The firm was lucky this one was exposed. Many more fake claims have been paid, costing the firm millions of shillings. 

“We have the name of the lawyer involved in this case. Where did he get my father’s signature that he used to forge documents? I want him to tell us how he did all this. As a family, we are contemplating taking legal action against the lawyer,” Mr Nyokangi said.

Records show that the case was filed by a Migori-based lawyer, who is also involved in other similar cases with Sony Sugar Company.

This is one of the fraudulent cases that a cartel of lawyers in the South Nyanza region have filed in courts to make money from unsuspecting millers.

The lawyers file the cases using the accounts and details of farmers who are in the dark about the matter and end up losing their money after millers release the payments.

In the scandal, the lawyers file claims with the millers for raw materials delivered to the factories. 

In some cases, the lawyers use details of dead farmers to file the suits without informing family members and relatives.

The Nation has established that the lawyers collude with rogue employees of sugar companies involved in processing payments to farmers.

The cases are filed without the knowledge of farmers and the lawyers end up benefiting once the court rules in favour of their clients.

One of the affected millers, the privately run Transmara Sugar, had processed payments amounting to Sh30 million following claims lodged by lawyers on behalf of farmers who were unaware of the litigation.

Another issue that the lawyers and their purported clients cite is delayed harvesting of mature cane, leading to massive losses by farmers.

Sony and Transmara Sugar are the most affected. At Transmara Sugar, hundreds of fictitious cases have been filed in courts in Kisii and Migori counties by lawyers seeking payment on behalf of farmers.

In the case of Transmara Sugar, managers hired a private investigator after realising that the company was paying millions of shillings to lawyers through many cases filed in court.

Transmara Sugar CEO Frederick North-Coombes said officers from Advanced Forensics Ltd have been investigating the cases and their findings shocked managers.

The investigators unearthed the rot at Sony Sugar two years ago and there are active court cases against the lawyers involved.

“What we have found is shocking and we are deliberating on what further measures to take after our findings,” Mr North-Coombes said.

The company was set to lose over Sh30 million in some of the concluded cases, but luckily, the money was yet to be dispatched to the supposed beneficiaries.

“The company may end up losing billions of shillings in the long run. This is because hundreds of cases are involved and the fake claims could lead the company to huge losses,” he said.

In one case that Transmara Sugar lost, the company paid Sh1.2 million, including legal fees, but it appealed and the money is yet to be dispatched.

In another case, Ms Evalyne Ngwono and her two sons Johnson and Geoffrey have a case in court that was filed without their knowledge.

The claimants are demanding Sh1,032,000, Sh516,000 and Sh1,032,000. The matter is under investigation.

Mr Johnson, of South Mugirango, has accused the lawyers of using their names to commit fraud.

He said his mother had been sickly and rarely left their home unless in the company of his children.

"She does not know how and why her name is being used to lay claim to what she doesn't know," said Mr Johnson.

For Sony Sugar, a clique of lawyers is accused of defrauding the state-owned miller of millions of shillings by filing fake compensation cases against it.

The miller, located in Awendo, Migori County, is battling more than 5,000 cases in courts in Migori and Kisii.

The cases are mainly over alleged non-payment for cane deliveries or compensation for the miller’s failure to harvest farmers’ cane on time, leaving it to rot.

Two Migori-based advocates are battling cases on fraud and forgery.

They were linked to the forgery and uttering of false documents used to pay non-existing farmers at the troubled Sony Sugar.

The use of false judicial documents could have led to the loss of millions of shillings at the company.

In one case, the advocates appeared before Kisii Principal Magistrate Ezekiel Obina and were charged with uttering false documents and forging judicial documents.

On May 17, 2018, at the Migori Law Courts, the lawyers are alleged to have made a verifying affidavit in the case bearing the name of a farmer and a judicial document purporting it to be what it was not.

On October 6, 2015, at the same courthouse, it is also alleged that one of the advocates knowingly and fraudulently uttered a forged plaintiff statement and a verifying affidavit purporting it had been filed by a farmer.

In the same court, an advocate is accused of forgery and uttering false documents, offences that he allegedly committed between November 2, 2015 and June 21, 2018 in Migori County.     BY DAILY NATION   

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