The influential and well-connected Kanu-era billionaire Madatali Chatur is neither new to controversy nor is he known to shy away from the same either.
He is an established entrepreneur with vast interests in real estate, hotels and also holds a substantial stake at ABC Bank (Kenya) alongside his business partner Ashraf Savani.
Having survived past claims of alleged land grabbing involving multiple prime properties, unsuccessful attempts to fight off human trafficking cases, Chatur and Savani are facing a litmus test in a protracted land dispute involving a controversial property in the up-market Westlands area of Nairobi belonging to the Anglican Church.
At the centre of the close to two decades unresolved land dispute is the legal ownership of Uzima Publishing House property contested by the late Salim Hussein Dungarwalla and the Right End Properties whose directors are Chatur and Savani.
Dungarwalla had sued Uzima and Right End Properties and the case temporarily stalled for over one year after the court file relating to the dispute went missing from the High Court registry.
Uzima had previously been sued by Gemsecurities (EA) Ltd for orders of specific performance over another bungled sale on the same property but the suit was dismissed by the High Court on February 22, 2006.
Court records indicate that in 2005, Dungarwalla entered into a sale agreement with Uzima to buy the land for Sh27 million and consequently paid Sh2.7 million a deposit for the specific performance of the contract.
But before the businessman and Uzima had sealed the deal to transfer the property, Right End Properties approached Dungarwalla and requested that he buys the property from him for Sh47 million.
Previously, Chatur was also involved in other disputes relating to prime properties located in upper city suburbs.
Last year, he lost a bid to challenge plans by Nairobi County government to repossess a parcel of land in Gigiri, which was set aside for a fire station.
Justice Samson Okong’o dismissed the businessman’s case saying the land was mentioned in the Ndung’u Land Report as one of the public land that was irregularly allocated to private entities and which the report called for revocation of the title deed.
Chatur went to court in 2018 seeking to block former Nairobi governor Mike Sonko’s administration from repossessing the land, arguing that it was a private land.
The businessman said when he acquired it, the defunct city council had erected three kiosks, which were rented while an empty space was being used as a car bazaar to park fire trucks.
He said, through his company Scorpion Properties Ltd, that he is the registered owner of the land in Gigiri, having acquired it in 1989.
In 2019, Chatur unsuccessfully tried to block human trafficking probe against him after a Nairobi court threw out his case seeking to block investigations into human trafficking claims detectives leveled against him.
He had been summoned to appear at the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) headquarters in September 2019.
In his affidavit, the businessman averred that the police officer’s intention to search his premises was putting his marriage at risk as the move would taint his image.
He further dismissed the police charges as lies and claimed that they were trumped up. In his ruling, however, Justice Weldon Korir dismissed the petition noting that there was no justification that the search put his marriage at risk.
“The impression I get is that the petitioner wants this court to protect his purported “clean record”. The court has no such powers.
In March 2020, Chatur announced plans to sell all his Kenyan properties, estimated to be worth Ksh76.99 billion.
In his ‘success’ story, Chatur says that he rose from an electronic shop that he opened in River Road, Nairobi, in 1977.
However, he is said to have been one of those who enjoyed the trappings of power during the Moi era, leading the Indian Community delegation to the State House all the time.
In February 2020, Chatur was arrested alongside Nandi Hills legislator Alfred Keter and Aurthur Ingolo Sakwa for what the Banking Fraud Investigation Unit and the Central Bank of Kenya said was presenting a forged 90-day Treasury Bills dated 1990.
The Chatur Group of Companies however denied the claims, saying that the Chatur arrested was not related to the ‘real’ Chatur.
He also owns Mithoo House, Diamond Plaza II, Hope International, Ngara Shopping Complex, Simba Centre, Mariam Arcade, Likoni Mall, Trust Building and New Muthaiga Shopping Mall.
The self-styled city tycoon also has interests in Langata Paradise Apartments, Bahari Dhow Villas, and houses in Nyari Estate and Fourth Parklands Avenue.
He also owns the Concord Hotel and Suites, Mara Concord, Shelly Beach Resort and the Cloud Hotel.
In the 2011 matrimonial case, former presidential aspirant Nazlin Umar sought over Sh200 million from the tycoon
Nazlin told the court that Chatur had promised to pay Sh200 million as dowry and a Mercedes Benz.
Nazlin wanted Chatur to pay her on the basis that he took over all her liabilities and responsibilities when he married her.
She accused the businessman of abandoning his responsibilities of upkeep and laid claim to several properties owned by Chatur including the aforementioned mall and plaza as Chatur had failed to provide her with care, love and support.
Chatur denied the claims and accused Nazlin of being an extortionist as claims of dowry and gifts by Nazlin were false and the case was intended to malign and scandalize him.
The last Kenyans heard of the case was in April 2014 when Chatur was summoned to personally appear at the High Court Family Division for cross-examination on his affidavits before the case fizzled out.