Sh17 billion Tax evasion case against billionaire fails to take off

by Wakili Liam
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Humphrey Kariuki

Billionaire Humphrey Kariuki’s Sh17 billion tax evasion case failed to proceed after one of the accused persons said he is unwell.

Milimani Chief Magistrate Francis Andayi halted proceedings in the matter until June 14 after one of the accused persons Peter Njenga who is a director of African Spirits Limited informed the court that he is unwell and would not be able to proceed with the hearing of the case.

Njenga however sought more time to see a doctor and file a medical report in court but did not disclose what he is ailing from.

“The health of each participant in this case is paramount. Where a person is in doubt about his health we better hang on the side of caution and halt the proceedings rather than insist on proceeding and tomorrow the person is not able to proceed due to his health. Therefore I am going to halt the proceedings until it is appropriate that all participants are ready to proceed or until the Ministry of Health gives guidelines that it is safe for people to gather in large numbers as we are now in a space such as this,”ruled Magistrate Andayi.

The matter was expected to kick off yesterday with the prosecution lining up two witnesses namely Chief Inspector Lapton Bengi and Mutwiri John who were present in court. It’s been three years since the accused persons were charged in court in August 2018. The hearing has never started owing to multiple applications from both parties.

However, Njenga’s former legal team led by lawyer Philip Murgor withdrew from the matter, informing the court that they had no further instructions from their client to appear in the case.

The magistrate however allowed Murgor’s application to be formally discharged from the proceedings after the Njega hired lawyers Issa Mansour and Edward Oonge to represent him.

Following the withdrawal of Murgor from the matter the new legal team for African spirit limited sought for more time to prepare their defense.

“We are keen to have the case proceed for hearing and following the withdrawal of senior counsel Murgor this morning the hearing has been thrown into a disarray,”said Mansour.

Kariuki through lawyers kioko Kilukumi and Cecil Miller informed the court they were ready to proceed with the hearing of the case.

The case will be mentioned on June 9.

In the case, Kariuki is charged alongside Peter Njenga Kuria (Director Africa Spirits Limited), Robert Thinji Murithi (director, WOW Beverages), Geoffrey Kaaria (Director Africa Spirits Limited), Kepha Gakure (tax manager, Africa Spirits) and Simon Maundu.

Prosecution has also preferred charges against Africa Spirits Limited and WoW Beverages Limited.

They are accused that between tax periods covering February 1,2016 and December 31,2018 being the directors of Africa Spirit limited a licensed excise duty manufacturer and registered tax payer chargeable to tax failed to pay taxes amounting to Sh 17782 ,553,085 payable to commissioner domestic taxes by the due dates as required under the excise duty act.

Prosecution also alleges that between January 31 and February 8,2019 at African spirits limited and WOW Beverages limited premises within Thika town in Kiambu county, the accused persons jointly were found in possession of 894 reels of counterfeit excise stamps acquired without the authority of the KRA Commissioner.

The eight are also accused on the same dates and places they were jointly found in possession of 1,251,090 bottles of assorted alcoholic beverages affixed with counterfeit excise stamps packed in 41,703 cartons

The accused persons were further charged that between January 1 and December 31,2016 knowingly omitted from the return of excise for Africa spirit limited Sh 2,022,340,210 which ought to have been included in the said returns.

All are out on Sh22 million bond each with a surety of a similar amount or pay alternative cash bail of Sh 11 million each.

An investigation on the two firms started in january 2019 when the Director of Criminal Investigations George Kinoti led detectives in a major raid at factories located in Thika where over Sh 21 million counterfeit excise stamps and 312,000 litres of illicit products.

An audit by KRA further revealed that the production system at the Africa Spirits Limited factory plant in Thika had been tampered with, leading to the submission of false tax declarations.

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