HARARE – Nigerian businessman Jerome Okeke has lost a Supreme Court appeal against a Chinese national whom he asked to pay $35 000 as commitment fee in a botched real estate deal.
The Supreme Court yesterday ruled that in terms of the commercial premises rent regulations of 1983, it was illegal for Okeke to demand the money from Lin Zhongmin.
Zhongmin won a High Court application against Okeke and his company Good Living Real Estate (Private) Limited, with the court ordering a refund of a $10 000 deposit towards a $35 000 commitment fee.
Okeke had filed a Supreme Court appeal against High Court Judge Susan Mavangira’s ruling.
Judges Paddington Garwe, Bharat Patel and Vernanda Ziyambi yesterday unanimously agreed that Okeke’s appeal had no merit, before dismissing it with costs.
Okeke, through his lawyer Lewis Uriri, told the court that he acted on behalf of the company, not in his personal capacity.
According to court papers, Good Living Real Estate was to enter into a lease agreement with Zhongmin, for the renting of a building that was under renovation along Mbuya Nehanda Street in Harare.
In his High Court application, Zhongmin said that he later discovered that Okeke had made false representations to him, adding that Good Living Real Estate had no mandate to receive the said money, because it was not the owner of the building.
“He (Zhongmin) contends that the first defendant (Good Living Real Estate) was unjustly enriched by the payment of the $10 000 as, consequently, the parties did not eventually enter into the envisaged lease agreement for the premises,” Zhongmin’s lawyer Chenai Gumiro told the court.
Mavangira ruled that Okeke and his company had been unjustly enriched because the lease agreement eventually failed to materialise.
“On the evidence adduced before this court, I find that there was no agreement that the $10 000 was non-refundable.
“The plaintiff (Zhongmin) did not receive any value for his money and the defendants have no justification for refusing to refund it,” Mavangira said.