The life of billionaire Samuel Kanogo Ritho has all the ingredients of a suspenseful if not tragic movie. Described as a diligent worker in his earlier days, Ritho would build a fortune for himself. However, in the wake of his enormous wealth, the lawyer would be accused of conning a number of people in false land deals.
The billionaire’s story is shrouded in mystery along with the equally strange death of his wife and how her body was taken from the morgue and buried very early in the morning without the knowledge of her kin.
Here is the story of Samuel Kanogo Ritho as told by WoK.
The once diligent man is a native of Mathioya in Murang’a county.
Ritho began his career working in the lands department as an assistant land registrar based in Murang’a county. He has been described by a colleague as hardworking and diligent.
His work at the lands office began prior to independence and was among those involved in the land consolidation process in Murang’a.
This was a process where land was registered under a particular individual after small holdings were brought together.
It is reported that this was how some Kikuyus (especially those loyal to the crown) got hundreds of acres of land while the Mau Mau detainees were still in prison. When they were finally released from prison, their land was already taken.
Transferred to Coast
A young Ritho would be transferred to the Coast. The government was hoping to do the land consolidation process in this region as well. By this time, he understood all about land and how it was valued by Kenyans.
While the government was doing the same process in the coast, about 177 acres remained around the beach. This land was not suitable for farming as it was filled with coral reefs and snakes.
According to Nation, this is where Ritho would establish a scheme to sell off the land. The plots were located between the Indian ocean and Gede settlements and between Watamu and Malindi residential areas.
Becoming a Lawyer
Ritho was fired by the government and decided to go to university where he studied law. He went on to establish a law firm called SK Ritho and Advocates where he served until 2009.
The lawyer returned to Kilifi where he masqueraded as a government official. It was easier as people knew him from before and thought he still worked for the government. The savvy lawyer partnered with officials at the Kilifi land registry and they sub-divided the land into plots. He was also able to obtain a Registry Index Map (RIM,).
The lawyer obtained millions of Shillings through the sale of these plots. So elaborate was the scheme that anyone searching the land registry in Kilifi would determine the land was genuine and so were the title deeds. The survey of Kenya, however, indicated the land belonged to the government.
Trouble knocked when the government began to allocate the land to investors. The investors and Ritho’s buyers clashed leading to long court battles. In 2009, he suffered a stroke and gave his life to Jesus as his savior upon leaving the hospital.
He traveled to the UK with his wife leaving the unsolved cases behind. At the time, his wealth in properties was estimated at Sh3 billion. According to The Standard, the city lawyer owned about 30 prime real estate properties in Loresho, Kileleshwa and Eastleigh and others in Mombasa, Kilifi and Murang’a.
The billionaire’s wife was Gladys Luhanga. She had previously worked as a teacher at Kileleshwa Primary School.
In October 2013, Gladys returned to the country to renew her British Visa. It is here that she would meet her death through poisoning. It was revealed that she cooked and ate dinner at night only to start vomiting, complaining of a stomach ache and had severe diarrhea. She was rushed to MP Shah Hospital followed by Mater hospital where she passed away on October 14th due to excessive bleeding.
Government pathologist Dr. Oduor Johansen ruled out suicide and confirmed she died of poisoning. Her daughter Elizabeth Muthoni stopped burial plans until investigations could be conducted.
Her son Geoffrey Ritho-who is a neurosurgeon practicing spain-came with documents and the body was released to him and a burial conducted in Murang’a at dawn. The cemetery was then sealed shut with cement. By the time Muthoni realized the body was missing, it was too late.
In May 2013, the late Gladys had discovered millions had been withdrawn from various bank accounts. She also moved to court contesting a will by her husband in 2013 saying he couldn’t have written it due to the stroke. She moved to court to stop her sons from controlling the estates and successfully won the case. A year before her death, Mrs Ritho said she had unsuccessfully tried to bring her husband back to Kenya.
A Profile of his children
According to a Nation article, all his seven children received the best education and went on to have prosperous careers.
- His eldest daughter Elizabeth was a city lawyer in Nairobi
- John: a dentist in London
- Margaret: a financial analyst in the United States
- Nyambura worked in the US
- Geoffrey: a neurosurgeon in Spain
- Michael: a pharmacist in the United States
- Florence: a professor in Chicago
The last reports about the ailing billionaire indicated he had suffered injuries under the care of his three children, John, Margaret and Geoffrey. Thus, he was under the care of social services.