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Court declines DPP orders to stop reopening of Africa Spirits Limited

By Nancy Gitonga
Thursday, April 8th, 2021
In summary

The state has suffered a blow after a Nairobi court declined to set aside orders allowing the re-opening of Thika based liquor firms Africa Spirits Limited and WOW Beverages that was closed over tax evasion and other charges.

In his ruling, Magistrate Francis Andayi dismissed the application by the Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji saying his court lacks jurisdictions to vary his earlier orders.

The magistrate also noted that the DPP, the Directorate of Criminal Investigations(DCI) and the Kenya Revenue Authority(KRA) were earlier not opposed to the handing over of the two firms premises in November last year when he allowed the application by the defence led by lawyers Kioko Kilukumi and Cecil Miller on behalf of businessman Humphrey Kariuki.

He said the instant application by the prosecution is an afterthought whose reasons are not clear to the court.

"This court lacks juridictions to grant the orders sought by the prosecution and, however, there is no new evidence was brought before this court by the Investigation officer to vary the orders as sought,"ruled Andayi.

On November 21,2020 the court granted the directors of Wow Beverages directors Robert Thinji Muriithi and Africa Spirits Directors Peter Njenga Kuria and Geoffrey Kaaria Kinoti access to their premises and reopening of the liquor firms.

The magistrate gave the state seven days to comply with the same orders.

But following the orders the DPP filed an application seeking to vary the same orders says the release of the premises back to the directors will jeopardize the ongoing cases pending in court.

The DPP through Carol Segei informed the court that the goods which are at the premises are exhibits in the case.

The defence had opposed the application indicating that the premises is still in the custody of KRA officers and the state had failed to comply with the court orders to handover the same.

They said that the state has capacity to store the goods which they intend to use as exhibit in their own stores.

The lawyers also disclosed that the companies were remitting about Sh 800 million monthly to KRA in tax when they were operational.

Earlier, when the court visited the premises last year it noted the same hand been vandalized and there were thefts of some property while still under the care of KRA officers.

Meanwhile the court has allowed the DPP'S request to consolidate two cases facing Kariuki and his co-accused persons.

Andayi ordered the DPP to supply the accused persons with the amend consolidated charges by April 13,2021.

He further directed the accused persons to appear in court virtually on April 15,2021 to plea afresh to the amend charges facing them .

In the case, businessman Humphrey Kariuki , ASL , Wow, Peter Njenga Kuria, Robert Ithinji Muriithi, Geoffrey Kaaria Kinoti Mbobu, Simon Maundu and Kepha Githu Gakure have denied failing to remit the alleged taxes between 2016 and 2018.

Among the charges they denied included failing to pay tax,fraud, being in possession of counterfeit excise stamps,being in possession of uncustomised goods, being in possession of exisable goods affixed with counterfeit excise stamps, aiding the commission of a tax offence and forgery.

One of the charges against them states that between the tax periods February 1,2019 and December 31,2018 being licensed excise duty manufacturer and registered tax payers the accused persons deliberately failed to pay the requisite taxes of Sh 17,782,553,085 payable to KRA.