Controversial preacher Paul Mackenzie does not own the 800-acre piece of land in Shakahola where bodies are being retrieved, Kilifi Governor Gideon Mung'aro has said.
Mung'aro, speaking to Citizen TV, claimed that the land is part of the Chakama Settlement Scheme which has been grabbed by individuals.
"That land which Mackenzie is occupying is not his; we have three schemes in that area which were initially grabbed by some individuals from the Chakama ranchers," Mung'aro said.
According to Mung'aro, Mackenzie chose to settle in the less populated areas of the forest where he carried out his activities undetected for years.
“When I was Malindi MP, we managed to recover Phase 1 which is about 52,000 acres. We recovered Phase 2 around five years ago. The area he (Mackenzie) is occupying is Chakama 3 which is currently being contested for by the people who grabbed it and the bank," he said.
"The government wanted to get that land so that it can be allocated to the people. So that is one of the areas where you don't have many communities living."
Mackenzie, who thrived on controversy by claiming that modern education was not God's plan, grew the number of his followers from tens to thousands. He is accused of creating a cult through radicalisation and influencing his followers to starve themselves to death in order to "meet Jesus".
As of Tuesday evening, the total number of deaths attributed to the cult led by Mackenzie stood at 90, including the eight victims who died after they were rescued by police.
Speaking after visiting the scene where the bodies are being recovered, Interior CS Kithure Kindiki promised that Paul must pay for the deaths.
"This was a misuse of fundamental rights of freedom with the purported use of the Bible to kill and cause a massacre. Those who urged others to fast and die were eating and drinking and they purported to prepare them to meet their creator," Kindiki said.
Kindiki says so far, 34 victims have been rescued alive from the cult while Mackenzie is in police custody alongside 14 others as the probe into the deaths continues.