Businessman Kariuki rubbishes claims over his Cyprus citizenship
Billionaire Humphrey Kariuki on Friday rubbished claims that he and his wife Stella Nasike could be among 26 investors who are being targeted for a revocation of Cypriot citizenship.
The reclusive tycoon in a statement said the matter has been exaggerated to insinuate that he is been targeted over strict tax related rules by the Government of Cyprus.
This is after a Cyprus newspaper on Wednesday reported that the European nation, that is regarded as a tax haven intends to revoke 29 passports belonging to investors connected to the country’s authoritarian regime.
“Recently, the Government of Cyprus has made the decision to review all passports issued under the Cyprus Investment Scheme before 2018.”
The audit will be led by an internal committee, set up by the Government, that will be in charge of reviewing these individual passport awards to ensure they met the regulatory requirements for the scheme applicable at the time of approval,” said the businessman’s statement.
The government earlier in the month, according to Cyprus Mail announced that it would start procedures for the revocation of the passports granted to 26 people after following an uproar caused by a recent revelation that among successful applicants were a Malaysian wanted by his country in connection with alleged financial crimes.
The 26 had all been granted citizenships up to 2018, prior to the introduction of stricter eligibility procedures for applying for citizenship. But Kariuki, who locally has been charged for evading Sh40 billion through his Thika-based African Spirits Limited alcohol manufacturer and who got his Cypriot citizenship in the same year, said the ongoing process to review the passports it will not affect him.
According to hi, his passport in the country, which is regarded as a tax heaven, met the requirements, but he was willing to compile with any requirements needed to facilitate the audit process.
“While I understand that my passport is part of this audit process, having been granted before 2018, I have no doubt that my application fully complied with the regulatory requirements,” he said.
He added: “As a law-abiding global citizen, I will fully support the mandated process in Cyprus with any requirements or further information needed to undertake the review swiftly.”
The Cyprus Mail, a publication in the island mentioned the businessman and his wife among a list of people whose passports could be revoked with Kariuki being reported to have been involved in a ”financial scam.”
The list of 26 also names other Russian, Chinese, Malaysian and individuals of other nationalities who could lose the much coveted passport which allows the holders to do business in countries in the European Union.
As part of its measures of attracting foreign investments, Cyprus offers citizenship to non-Cypriot citizens who invest over Ksh.30 million in the island.
As part of its Cyprus Investment Programme, one must own residential or other property with a minimum market value of EUR 300,000 plus VAT, purchased in Cyprus.
One must also secure annual income of a minimum of EUR 30,000 from abroad and from sources other than employment in Cyprus or have funds of a minimum of EUR 30,000 transferred from abroad and deposited into a Cyprus bank in a three-year fixed deposit account.
The billionaire is charged alongside three directors of WOW Beverages Limited, four others from Africa Spirits and a driver said to be an accomplice in evading to pay tax worth Sh 40 billion to the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA).
The other suspects are Stuart Gerald (director, WOW Beverages), Peter Njenga Kuria (director, Africa Spirits Ltd), Robert Thinji Murithi (director, WOW Beverages), Geoffrey Kinoti (director, Africa Spirits). Others are Sethu Prabhu (assistant production manager, Africa Spirits), Eric Nzomba (driver) and Kepha Gakure (tax manager, Africa Spirits).
The court ordered all the suspects to be released on Sh22 million bond each with a surety of a similar amount or pay alternative cash bail of Sh11 million each.
The six, who pleaded to the 19 counts in the three files yesterday, were also ordered to deposit their passports in court and warned not to leave the country during the trial period without permission from the court.
Some of the popular brands produced by Kariuki’s plant are include Bluemoon vodka, Legend brandy and Glen Rock whisky.
Through its subsidiary — Wines of the World Beverages — the firm also imports and distributes leading brands of wines and premium whisky from North America and Europe.
The brands include Zappa, Bacardi and Southern Comfort.