The higher they fly....

Author:Otieno, Barrack
Position:Asian billionaire Kamlesh Pattni - Includes related article

The man who stands accused of stealing billions of shillings from Kenya's state coffers, Mr Kamlesh Pattni, has lost the jewel in his business crown, the Grand Regency Hotel.

Mr Kamlesh Pattni, the 31 year old Asian billionaire, lost his battle to keep his most treasured possession, the opulent Kshs 6bn Grand Regency Hotel, on December 1 1995. After a year long struggle, the Court of Appeal decided that it would finally be sold to recover the Kshs 2.5bn Mr Pattni owes the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) - just one of the vast sums of money Mr Pattni is accused of stealing.

The most elegant hotel in the region, the Grand Regency is an ultra-modern structure rising 12 storeys above Nairobi's lush Central Park. Within easy walking distance of the central business district, theatres, clubs and banks, it has 230 luxurious rooms and suites overlooking a high-tech atrium. Its loss is the most humiliating thing to have happened to Mr Pattni so far, as he watches the slow and painful collapse of his vast business empire. The higher they fly, the harder they fall...

The saga began in December 1994. For while he was languishing in Kamiti Maximum Security Prison for four months, on remand for the theft of the Kshs 2.5bn from the CBK, Mr Pattni's hotel was being put up for sale to recover the money.

But Mr Pattni was released just before the final bids were brought in, and he immediately sought and obtained a restraining order from Justice Erastus Githinji allowing him to challenge the sale. For a while Mr Pattni thought he had a chance, but his challenge failed in the High Court because of omissions he had made to Justice Githinji. It seemed Mr Pattni was out of luck.

Yet he did not give up hope. He kept burrowing away like a terrier, going to the Court of Appeal only to find his case dismissed once again, this time by a panel of Kenya's most renowned judges: Chief Justice Abdul Malik Cockar, Justice Richard Otieno Kwach and Justice Riaga Omollo. The panel added a twist however, directing that while the hotel could be sold to recover the stolen funds, its fixtures and fittings could not.

This took the Drama one step further as Mr Pattni attempted to remove some of the fittings the following day. Police moved in to dampen the ensuing fracas, and Mr Pattni again demanded a hearing with Chief Justice Cockar. Another panel was called, including Justice Akilano Molade Akiwumi, Justice Philip Tanui and Justice AB Shah, all of whom had been hearing Mr Pattni's...

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