Africa Spirts stamped were legitimate but stolen from KRA

Millions of revenue stamps seized from a distillery in Thika could have been stolen from the Kenya Revenue Authority rather than faked, as earlier claimed.

It would be a major indictment of the tax collection agency as the revenue leakage is likely to be a well-executed inside job rather than a forgery.

Of immediate concern is prevalence of theft through irregular issuance of stamps to manufactures of commodities, including cigarettes and soft drinks.

Insiders aware of the scam have confirmed that the stamps, which are affixed on alcohol bottles to confirm payment of taxes, existed as entries in the Excise Duty Management System.

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Investigators are working to resolve the puzzle of how the Sh6 billion worth of the duty receipts left the KRA’s printing premises without the corresponding payments being received.

The owner of the distillery, Africa Spirits Ltd, billionaire Humphrey Kariuki, has been questioned by the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) several times.

The stamps that were seizes could be affixed to 21 million bottles and are now the subject of the investigations by the Serious Crimes Office. A senior official told The Standard that the probe had confirmed that the stamps were legitimate and had been generated through the newly-acquired revenue management system, which was, ironically, acquired to beat such schemes.

“We have confirmed the authenticity of the seized stamps but it has not been established how they were acquired by the suspect without receipt of applicable duties,” said the source, who could not be named as they are not allowed to speak for KRA.

There was concern that such thefts could have been going on for a long time, given the level of compromise of the tax collector’s systems by its own staff, some of whom are stationed at large manufacturers such as Africa Spirits.

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“Our assessment of the company’s production was totally different from the capacity that was unearthed in the sting operation at the premises,” the official said.

In the assessment of the in-house findings thus far, many senior individuals at the agency were well aware of the theft of revenue stamps and the criminal investigations could yield “many casualties”.

KRA did not directly respond to the fresh findings but rather deflected questions to the Directorate of Criminal Investigations, which is handling the mega scam that has extended to illegally imported ethanol.

“Investigations of this case are under the Serious and Economic Crime units of the Directorate of Criminal Investigations. Please contact the office of DCI for an update,” KRA said in an email.

Sources said investigations would be extended to customs offices on the Tanzania border, where most of the ethanol originated.

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Kenya Revenue AuthorityAfrica Spirits Ltdbillionaire Humphrey Kariukitax evasion