DPP allows KRA to prosecute Humphrey Kariuki's Sh41bn tax evasion case

Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Noordin Haji has delegated his prosecutorial powers to the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) in the Sh41 billion tax evasion case against billionaire businessman Humphrey Kariuki.

The DPP on Friday consolidated two tax-related cases against the alcoholic beverages manufacturer and seven others. He reduced the number of charges from 19 to 11 in the fresh case filed before Milimani Chief Magistrate Francis Andayi.

Mr Kariuki and his co-accused denied failing to pay tax of Sh17,782,553,085 to the commissioner of domestic taxes between January and December 2016.

They are also accused of omitting Sh832,048,543 in Value Added Tax (VAT) for Africa Spirits Limited (ASL), an amount which had been included in the returns, for the period January to December 2016.

For 2017, Mr Kariuki allegedly failed to remit Sh5,981,840,025 while ASL failed to remit Sh2,188,622,304. For 2018, the directors of Wow Beverages Limited (WBL) and ASL are charged with failing to remit Sh5,673,829,000.

Factory handover order

Defence lawyers Kioko Kilukumi and Cecil Miller raised concerns about non-compliance with a court order for the Thika-based liquor factory to be handed over to its owners.

The lawyers also objected to the request by KRA for the hearing to take place at the factory, saying the DPP and taxman were in contempt of court for “failing to hand over the factory despite an order to do so”.

They further told the court that KRA’s request is meant to delay the case whose hearing is yet to begin more than two years after the accused persons were arraigned.

Mr Kariuki and his co-accused were earlier charged in three different cases with tax-related offences - the two which were consolidated on Friday and another which was thrown out by the court in December 2020.

Lawyers Cecil Miller and Kioko Kilukumi at the Milimani Law Courts on April 16, 2021, when the DPP consolidated two cases against businessman Humphrey Kariuki and seven others.  

Richard Munguti | Nation Media Group

Terminated case

In a dramatic turn of events last year, Milimani Senior Principal Magistrate Kennedy Cheruiyot acquitted Mr Kariuki and seven others after the DPP failed to prevent witnesses despite several pleas by the defence team and the court.

Mr Kariuki was acquitted in the case where he was charged with having 80 drums of unaccustomed goods (ethanol) worth Sh7.4 million at ASL and WBL’s premises in Thika, Kiambu County.

Freeing the businessman alongside ASL and WBL directors Messrs Peter Njenga, Robert Mureithi, Simon Maundu and Kefa Gakure, the magistrate said the DPP failed in his constitutional function of presenting witnesses.

He cited Article 50 of the Constitution, which says witnesses should be presented within a reasonable time and added that the DPP must ensure cases are disposed of expeditiously.

At that time the court agreed with the defence that the case had been pending in court for 16 months.

“The delay in leading evidence in this case amounts to violating the fundamental and constitutional rights of the accused, who have religiously attended this trial for 16 months,” said Mr Cheruiyot.

In court on Friday, Mr Andayi directed that the cash bail and any other security held in court in the terminated case be released to the accused persons.

Describing the conduct of the prosecution in this matter as recalcitrant, the magistrate decried the failure by the prosecution to provide inventoried evidence for over two years, which has hindered pre-trial proceedings.

He set May 6 as the pre-trial datefor the two consolidated cases and expressed his hope that the prosecution will comply this time. The case will be heard on May 31.

This article was written by The Nation on 17/04/2021.