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Basil Criticos: Profile Of The EX-MP Who Sold DP Ruto 2,500 Acres of Land

Basil Criticos is a Kenyan businessman and a former Member of Parliament for Taita Taveta Constituency.

The retired politician found himself at the center of newsheadlines in May 2022. First, for settlement following a court case involving the sale of his land over unpaid loans, and secondly, for the controversies surrounding the ownership of a parcel of land he sold to Deputy President William Ruto.

During a Kenya Kwanza Alliance economic forum at Lumo Wildlife Sanctuary on May 24, DP Ruto revealed that he helped former Taveta Member of Parliament Basil Criticos to offset a loan he owed the Agricultural Finance Corporation (AFC).

“I am also a Mata elder because I helped the former Taveta MP to settle his loan at AFC and he gave me a portion of land,” he said.

The 2,536-acre farm borders the vast Criticos ranch and Lake Jipe to the South. The DP grows maize and rears cattle on the farm.
Criticos is no stranger to making newsheadlines over the years, and in this article, WoK profiles the life of a man that once represented the residents of Taveta Constituency at the National Assembly.
Basil Criticos: Profile Of Man Who Sold DP Ruto 2,500 Acres of Land
Former Taveta MP Basil Criticos addressing journalists outside his plane in Taveta before flying over the invaded farm to assess the damages caused.Photo/JONATHAN MANYINDO
Background & Education
Criticos was born in Kenya on October 18, 1954. He is the son of George Criticos, who was also a member of Parliament for Taita Taveta. Basil was raised in the region, living in an expansive farm with his family.
Political career
Her served as member of parliament for Taveta Constituency for more than one term. Criticos also served as the assistant cabinet minister for Roads and Public Works under late President Daniel Moi’s regime.
Where it all went wrong

Criticos’ problems started after his 99-year leasehold lapsed even as the government failed to approve his renewal requests. He first blamed the invasion of his farm on racism and incitement. He further linked his predicaments to witchcraft.

In May 2000, everything fell apart for Criticos, who was Kenya’s only white Member of Parliament, after he was dismissed from his assistant Minister position for accusing the government of being behind his troubles.
Endless Battles Vs Squarters

Later, the High Court asked the government to allow Criticos to subdivide his expansive land after he sought orders to set use 6,500 acres of the land to offset a loan of Ksh100 million. At that time, over 5,000 squatters had settled on the land.

The Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation Commission of Kenya (TJRC) report detailed that between 1996 and 2003, the family of the former Taveta MP offered a proportion of the 30,000 acres of land to the government for purchase at low rate of only Ksh600 per acre to be used in settling the squatters.

Ksh2 billion settlement
On May 5, National Bank of Kenya (NBK) was ordered by a court to pay a former Member of Parliament (MP) Ksh2.2 billion. He had gone to court after the financial institution auctioned his farm 14 years ago, Business Daily reported. However, after series of court sessions, a bench of three Court of Appeal judges found that the auction of Criticos’ farm was undervalued.

The court argued that the 15,994.5 acres of land in Taita Taveta County was undervalued since it had buildings, sisal, quarry, and road network on it.

“In the result, subject to what we shall shortly state with regard to the crops, we find the appellant’s valuation report to be solid in content and uncontroverted. It was not to be merely wished away.

Basil Criticos: Profile Of Man Who Sold DP Ruto 2,500 Acres of Land
Former Taveta MP Basil Criticos / Courtesy

“And we are on balance persuaded by the appellant’s contention that the suit property was sold at an undervalue,” Justices Roselyn Nambuye, Wanjiru Karanja and Patrick Kiage said.

The land was sold to the Settlement Fund Trustees (SFT) to recover a Ksh20 million loan which was given to a company in which Criticos was a director.

The former lawmaker had acted as a guarantor.

In addition to the compensation, the bank was also directed to pay Criticos Ksh35 million surplus for the sale. NBK was also put on the spot over excessive interest rates, declining the former MP’s offers to redeem the debt and selling the property at less than the amount he offered.

The bank sold the land to SFT for Ksh55 million through a private treaty, while the case was pending in court. NBK had demanded Ksh66.5 million plus 35 per cent interest from Agro Development Company where Criticos was a director and shareholder.

Family

Criticos is married to Barbara Kirwan Criticos. The two have been married for over two decades.

Son’s Death

Alexander Thomas Criticos,32, died of undisclosed ailment at his Nairobi home in August 2019. His death had been initially claimed to be by suicide, but Criticos refuted the allegations, saying he had died of an ailment best kept to the family.

“It was just an illness which I do not want to disclose publicly,” he added.

Relationship scandal

In 2019, a woman who claimed to have cohabited Criticos for a period of eight years is demanded Ksh25 million from the lawmaker. In documents filed in court, Victoria Anna Hill wanted the former politician compelled to pay her Ksh25 million, which she allegedly loaned him while still together to expand their business.

She further demanded 100 acres of land that Criticos had allegedly promised her before he kicked her out of his house. The woman claims that she began living with Criticos in 2006 before their relationship ended in 2014. He denied ever cohabiting with Victoria, stating that she was only working at his company.

“I have never cohabited with her as common law partners, as I have been happily married to Barbara Kirwan Criticos for 18 years. I do not understand the basis of her claims, as I only contracted her as an interior decorator at my property known as Grogan’s Castle,” said Criticos as quoted by The Standard.

While denying the allegations, Criticos accused the woman of breaking into his apartment and stealing valuables worth Ksh23 million. Victoria denied the accusations, noting that she had all the keys to his house.

“He is lying that I stole from him. I want nothing of his. I only want my money and investment I made in his home. He left me destitute, without any concern for my well-being after living with me for over eight years, where I supported him financially and emotionally,” Victoria said in a sworn affidavit.

She told the court that she decorated Criticos house, bought furniture, artifacts, beddings and kitchen utensils among other items. She wanted the court to compel Criticos to return all the items she bought with her own money, refund the Ksh25 million loan (accrued with interest factored in) she gave him and 100 acres of land he promised her for her “good services” during their eight-year relationship.

Victoria attached a letter dated August 6, 2010, from Criticos’ lawyer Walker Kontos confirming that the former MP had agreed to surrender the portion of land to her.

 “He acknowledged in writing the debt he owed me, but he refused to pay me and instead alleged that I am a thief who stole his properties and firearm. On account of other amounts and the interests, he is indebted to me to the tune of Ksh25 million,” said Victoria.