Keroche Breweries owners deny Sh14 billion tax fraud, out on bail

Keroche CEO Tabitha Karanja and lawyer James Orengo leave Milimani Law Courts after paying a Sh10 million cash bail. [Collins Kweyu]

Keroche Breweries Ltd owners yesterday denied Sh14 billion tax fraud charges.

Appearing before Milimani Chief Magistrate Francis Andayi yesterday, Keroche Breweries CEO Tabitha Karanja and her husband Joseph Karanja denied the charges instigated by the Kenya Revenue Authority for unpaid taxes between 2015 and June this year.

The Karanjas were accused of unlawfully making incorrect statements of their excise duty returns between February 2015 and January 2016, which in turn reduced their company’s tax liability by Sh1.8 million.

The also faced a second count of making incorrect excise tax for February 2016 and January 2017, amounting to Sh3.1 billion.

On the third count, the prosecution, led by senior assistant DPP Alexander Muteti and Catherine Mwaniki, charged  that in February 2017 and January 2018, the brewer’s excise duty books were incorrect to the tune of Sh3.6 billion.

The charges read that between 2018 and January 2019, another excise tax entry was unlawfully made which exposed the firm to a Sh2.5 billion liability.

Charges also consist of Sh1.9 billion excise tax which was allegedly to be paid between January and June 2019. They were also charged with omitting Value Added Tax (VAT) returns between 2016 and this year.

The court was told that between February 2016 and January 2017, Sh551 million was not remitted by the firm to the tax collector, and that between 2017 and 2018 , the amount was Sh613 million.

They were further charged that between 2018 and January this year, Keroche Breweries owed Sh430 million in VAT and that for the period between February and June this year, the company had not remitted Sh196 million to KRA.

Senior counsel James Orengo, representing Tabitha and her husband Joseph Karanja told the Chief Magistrate that the amount on the charge sheet was disputed. “We plead to the court that you do not get attracted to the figures on this charge sheet. The amount is contested. There is a whole process in computing and demanding money. The amount is speculative,” argued Orengo.

The prosecution did not oppose the release of the couple on bond. Mr Muteti told the court that the bail amount should factor in the alleged tax default.

Mr Karanja was granted Sh5 million bond or Sh 2 million cash bail and given a week to pay, while the Keroche CEO was granted Sh10 million cash bail or Sh15 million bond. Their company was granted Sh15 million cash bail. The case will be mentioned on September 2.