Kenya: Billionaire in Tax Evasion Case Fights for Beer Plants Taken Over By State

A police officer died at the premises of beer factories owned by billionaire Humphrey Kariuki, who is facing a Sh41 billion tax evasion case, a court has been told.

This was revealed Thursday as Mr Kariuki's lawyers sought to have the court to compel the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to hand back to him two beer factories being guarded by police and officers from the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA).

Wow Beverage Limited (WBL), in the case filed in court, says besides the officer's death, beer products and beverages of an unknown value have been stolen or carted away from its Thika-based factory.

The proprietors and directors of the liquor companies want the premises restored to them for proper management and payment of tax.

MONTHLY TAX

Before the closure of the two factories the government was receiving in excess of Sh700 million in tax monthly.

Through lawyers Cecil Miller, Ben Nzakyo, Manases Mwangi and Benjamin Musyoki, WBL Thursday told Chief Magistrate Martha Mutuku that 10 months have lapsed since the DPP commenced prosecution against Mr Kariuki and directors of WBL and Africa Spirits Limited (ASL).

The lawyers asked the magistrate to direct the DPP to supply them with witness statements so that the accused can prepare their defences.

They told Ms Mutuku that the DPP has disobeyed orders to provide witness statements and exhibits to the accused.

"Ten months have lapsed and the DPP has not supplied all the nine suspects with evidence to enable them prepare their defence," Mr Miller told the court.

The magistrate heard that on January 31, 2019 police and, KRA officers took over the premises of WBL and ASL and then chased away workers before closing them down.

EXPLAIN OFFICER'S DEATH

The defence lawyers urged the magistrate to compel the DPP to give them statements disclosing how the death of the police officer occurred at the premises of WBL.

Besides, they sought further statements from the DPP on the stolen products since the take-over of the premises by the KRA officers and Police.

Mr Mwangi urged the magistrate to proceed to receive evidence from the WBL premises which "has since been declared a crime scene by KRA and the Directorate of Criminal Investigations".

"Unless this Court immediately takes evidence in advance at the crime scene and order the storage facilities to be handed over to WBL, more deaths, theft and destruction are likely to continue at the factory," Mr Mwangi said.

The defence lawyers, who are seeking a total of 25 orders, disclosed that WBL had been paying over Sh700 million in taxes before the closure of the storage facilities.

LOST REVENUE

"The continued closure of the facilities is contrary to public interest as it continues to deny the government revenue," Mr Musyoki stated.

He added that the closure of WBL and ASL, destruction, theft and carting away of products clandestinely under the watch of the prosecution, the police and KRA, is contrary to public interest and fair trial.

The plea for the court to intervene was made when the case Mr Kariuki and directors of the two companies, Mr Stuart Gerald, Mr Peter Njenga, Mr Robert Thinji, Mr Simon Maundu and Mr Kaaria Kinoti came up for mention.

The suspects are urging the magistrate to order the DPP to supply them with a full list of the motor vehicles parked outside the crime scene, those who entered the premises, names of passengers who entered the factory from January 31, 2019.

They are also asking the court to order the DPP to explain the purpose of entry of all those people.

They at the same time seek an inventory of all items, documents, products and goods found at the crime scene when police and KRA officers took over the factories.

POST-MORTEM REPORT

Also the accused want a post-mortem report on the officer who died at the crime scene and full particulars of the next of kin.

State Prosecutor Carol Sigei asked for 90 days to enable investigations on the issues raised by the accused to be carried out.

The same was opposed by the defence and she was ordered to respond within 14 days.

Ms Mutuku fixed the case for hearing on August 3, 2020.

Mr Kariuki and his co-accused are out on bond.

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