Relief for businessman Kariuki as court declines to reverse orders unfreezing his accounts

Billionaire businessman Humphrey Kariuki got relief after the High Court declined to reverse orders which allowed him access to his company accounts.

The Director of Public Prosecution wanted the court to reinstate the orders which froze the accounts of some of the companies owned by Kariuki, but Justice Luka Kimaru declined and directed the DPP to wait until next week when the matter will go for a full hearing.

Among the issues the court will determine include the legality of the order which stopped the businessman from operating his company’s accounts, and which was lifted last week by a Kiambu court.

State Prosecutor Catherine Mwaniki wanted the unfreezing order reinstated as she sought an adjournment in the case by Africa Spirits Limited before the High Court.   

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Mwaniki argued that a magistrate’s court in Kiambu lifted the freezing order when it knew there was already a related case in the High Court.

But lawyer Cecil Miller representing Africa Spirits Ltd opposed the application saying the DPP was seeking to reinstate the freeze orders through the back door.

On Friday, Kiambu Senior Principal Magistrate Stella Atambo ruled that the order served on two banks to freeze the accounts was irregular since the Directorate of Criminal Investigations never sought such an order in the first place.

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According to the magistrate, the order issued by the court only allowed the DCI to investigate the accounts but not to freeze it.

She ruled that the order to freeze the bank accounts was irregularly obtained and it was proper for the court to correct the error, and that it was improper for the DCI to ride on orders that were never sought.

Mr Miller in his application argued that the orders freezing the company’s nine accounts was unlawful and meant to cripple its operations after the DPP failed to link its directors to the tax evasion claims.

The company accused the DPP of acting in bad faith and abusing the court process, arguing that the decision to file the application in Kiambu was to get a favourable magistrate to rule in their favour after a similar application was declined by a magistrate in Nairobi.

According to the lawyer, the court in Kiambu was misled to freeze the accounts since the DPP failed to disclose the existence of a similar case before the Milimani High Court.

“The prayers sought did not include the preservation of bank accounts, yet the orders extracted included the preservation of bank accounts of persons not made parties to the application for a period of 90 days,” he argued.

Mr Miller argued that in the interest of justice and fairness, the court should set aside the orders and allow the company to continue with its operations.

Justice Kimaru gave Kenya Revenue Authority time to file their submissions and scheduled the hearing on Tuesday next week.

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Billionaire businessman Humphrey KariukiAfrica Spirits Limited