Court blocks Nairobi tycoon police probe in Trattoria eviction dispute


Court blocks Nairobi tycoon police probe in Trattoria eviction dispute


Trattoria Restaurant managing director Gaetano Ruffo. FILE PHOTO | NMG

The Court of Appeal has upheld a decision blocking the police from probing the owner of the building that houses the famous Trattoria Restaurant in Nairobi over a long-running battle with the eatery’s owner Gaetano Ruffo.

A bench of three judges said that allowing the police to investigate claims by Mr Ruffo against the landlady Ms Joanina Wanjiku Maina would be an affront to the process of the court and defeat the ends of justice.

Justices Mohamed Warsame, Hellen Omondi and Jessie Lesiit said the summons by the police would put the Ms Maina and her agents to great oppression and prejudice.

“The facts, in this case, are so telling that it would seem wholly improper to ‘wait and see’ how the investigations and the criminal cases progress in view of the cat and mouse situation at play,” the judges said, adding that it is unjust to be put in a position where to comply with the law results in punitive measures.

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Ms Maina and her tenant Mr Ruffo have been embroiled in a court fight since 2013 after the landlady protested against the tenant’s move to block exit passages and fire assembly point by placing 1000kg gas cylinders and water tanks.

She accused Mr Ruffo of using the police to harass her for trying to enforce safety regulations imposed by the Nairobi County Government.

Mr Ruffo through lawyer Geogiadis Khaseke claimed that goons descended on the premises in 2013 and damaged a smoke extractor fan, disconnected storage water tanks and attempted to destroy the gas cylinder and cold room.

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The restaurateur has been on the premises since 2005 and claims he was cleared by the county government in an inspection in 2014 but Ms Maina said he later received notices from the same county government to clear all items blocking the exit points or face prosecution.

Although the notices were later withdrawn, Ms Maina says audits conducted and raised safety of other 40 occupants in the building. 

She later asked the court to compel Mr Ruffo to furnish her with the approval plans of Tratoria to place a fire extractor, LPG gas cylinder and cold room at the emergency fire assembly and exit points.

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Her lawyer Kethi Kilonzo said she also sought for copies of the plans submitted by Tratoria and the consent of the previous owner of the building.

The court upheld a decision directing Mr Ruffo to documents as requested.

The judges noted Ms Maina received notices from the county to clear all items from the fire exits and assembly points or face imminent prosecution and when she sought to comply with the directions, the notices were unceremoniously withdrawn.

“Logic, therefore, that in the absence of reason or explanation of how the decision was arrived at by the 2nd respondent (County), and in view of the obvious contradiction of the various laws, one can only conclude there was a patent error in the decision, and it was unlawful and disregarded the clear provisions of the law,” the judges said.

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