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Mikkel Grabowski

Without an iota of suspicion, a German national who fell in love with Kenya and embarked on a business venture there lost his marriage, was fleeced of his investments and could not get any help from the authorities. Last year, a stroke certainly related to these frustrations nearly sent him to the grave.

Mr. Rudolf Marquardt, a computer malware expert in Germany, travelled to Kenya for the first time in 2001 on the invitation of a Kenyan lady he met earlier that year in Germany. Upon her return to Kenya, the lady convinced Marquardt to travel to Mombasa where the two spent Christmas together and floated a marriage proposal. 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 his in-laws in Kisumu, who were originally from western Kenya. In 2009, Marquardt’s ex-in-laws persuaded him to set up a home within the district.

Kenya’s weather and the hospitality of the people around him became the ideal investment location and retirement domicile.

The trap

Unbeknown to him 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 was equipped with adequate capital and acquired two parcels of land and a home which he promptly paid for. As a resident in Germany, he needed a caretaker. On the recommendation of his in-laws, Mrs. Valarie K. was inducted into the venture. To secure her commitment, Valarie was allocated 1 out of the 10,000 shares the venture .

Part of the capital was injected into a hotel and fast-food restaurant within the city of Kisumu to sustain his adopted family.

In his grand plans of starting small-scale poultry and dairy farming, Marquardt bought four grade cows and a large number of free range chickens to supply fresh milk, eggs and chickens.

As a caretaker and shareholder, Valarie had to move out of the slums and was allocated one wing of the residence 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 Valerie of her duties, but later reinstated her after friends interceded. However, he relocated the investment office to Nairobi.

Acting upon suspicion, the wife of Marquardt’s lawyer in Kisumu warned him of wary activities between her husband and Valerie, whom she claimed had ruined her marriage. But it was too late. Not only had the business been sold out, 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 with was in a network of people with questionable morals. She was unscrupulous and set to exploit him from the very beginning. 

Officials complicity

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 for six months. In addition, Valerie equipped herself with a forged court ruling dissolving a marriage that never took place, a case that has been deliberately stalled in court.

Seeking legal assistance became an exercise in futility. Marquardt recorded a statement with the police. Valerie 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 1 million 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, Valerie’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 deeds and other documents to claim transfer of property to Valerie. It is not clear hitherto as to what documents the Registrar of Lands used to process the transfer of property 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 Valerie 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 to attend the hearing but neither Valerie 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 investigating officer did not bother to communicate about an indefinite adjournment of the case. He waited for Marquardt to travel to Kenya only to inform him of the 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 have not helped. On one occasion, the office of the Criminal Investigation (CID) gave the investor a police escort to the office of Kisumu CCIO Nyanza.

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, he learnt to his dismay that officers who first recorded the case had been transferred.

It was now clear to the distraught German investor of the extent of the corruption syndicate that he was caught in. What appeared clearly was that there was no solution in sight. He sought the help of officials at the HUDUMA house, but was referred to the Ombudsman. However, on his third visit Marquardt was warned not to return, but file the matter with the Kisumu law courts. 

As a result, the investor early last year suffered a stroke upon his return to Germany and spent close to seven months in the intensive care unit and rehabilitation hospital wing while servicing a bank loan looted from him in Kenya.

Efforts by the German basedKenya Development Associates (KDA) to intervene came to an abrupt halt after a hilarious response from the police spokesman thus: “The caller ought to complete his prison sentence and return home upon his release”. On further questioning, seniors at the police headquarters vehemently defended the utterance.

The question on Marquardt’s mind is, if the Police, Judiciary, and Kenyan lawyers cannot help, where else can one seek justice in Kenya?

* Mickie Ojijo is a Kenyan-born journalist living in Frankfurt.



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