Kenya: Keroche Breweries Power Couple Arrested

Keroche Breweries Chairman Joseph Karanja waves at journalists when he was arrested by detectives at the company's factory in Naivasha.

Keroche Breweries directors Tabitha Karanja and Joseph Karanja have been arrested in connection to allegations of evading taxes amounting Sh14.45 billion since 2015.

The couple frog-matched by detectives from their company's factory in Naivasha on Thursday afternoon and bundled into waiting cars.

ARREST ORDER

The couple had been holed up inside the company's compound since Wednesday evening when the orders for their arrest were issued by the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) Noordin Haji.

The founders of the Naivasha-based Keroche Breweries will be charged in court on suspicion of evading taxes amounting to Sh14.45 billion in a new twist to the firm's continuing wars with the revenue agency.

On Wednesday the DPP ordered for couple's arrest over alleged tax evasion by their alcohol production business which dates back to 2015.

But speaking late on Wednesday evening after the orders were issued, the company CEO, Tabitha Karanja, described the tax fraud claims as baseless.

She further stated that she had not received any communication from the office of the DPP nor has any investigating officer questioned her over the alleged fraud.

"I have never seen any investigating officer in our brewery at any given time in Keroche's lifetime. It is such a gross violation, harassment and intimidation by such a high office in our beloved country," she stated.

HARASSMENT

She pointed out that the way the matter has been handled was humiliating, embarrassing and that she has been treated without respect.

"We are deeply shocked beyond imagination by both the allegations made and the manner in which the matter has been handled from the dissemination of the information."

On Thursday, KRA defended its actions against tax evaders following the statement from the management of Keroche Breweries.

KRA said that the fight against tax evasion is not targeting any business staff or individual.

The authority also stated that it has the responsibility of facilitating trade in a conducive environment and urged all eligible taxpayers to pay their dues.

It pointed out that it will pursue only those who have deliberately chosen to evade their tax payment so that they are brought to book.

TAX EVASION

"Kenyans should reject the narrative that KRA is fighting any individual or business. On the contrary, KRA has the additional responsibility of trade facilitation under which we support a business environment that is conducive for the growth of business," KRA said in a statement.

The Authority further revealed that mechanisms have also been put in place to identify members of staff who aid in tax evasion and that those found culpable will be dealt with decisively.

KRA has over the years been embroiled in a tug of war with the Naivasha-based brewer over tax computation method.

In a previous tussle, KRA ordered excise duty on Viena Ice paid at Sh101.2 per litre while Keroche insisted on Sh26.4 per litre.

On Wednesday, Mr Haji said Keroche has not submitted Sh9.5 billion from Vienna Ice alone.

The Directorate of Criminal Investigations last week confirmed the investigations into the alcohol tax evasion cartel that has been extended to Times Tower, with officials of KRA suspected to be involved in the multi-billion tax evasion.

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