DPP directs arrest of billion alcohol distiller and his employees over Sh14b tax evasion

Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Noordin Haji has approved the prosecution of tycoon Humphrey Kariuki following an investigation into alleged tax evasion running into billions of shillings.

Haji has directed Director of Criminal Investigations (DCI) George Kinoti to arrest Kariuki and eight other people, including directors of Africa Spirits Ltd and WOW Beverages Ltd.

The DPP said a Kenya Revenue Authority audit had revealed that Africa Spirits Ltd had evaded paying Sh41.5 billion in taxes between 2014 and 2019.

In a statement yesterday, Haji detailed seven charges against the suspects, including failure to pay tax, forgery, and being in possession of uncustomed goods.

This followed the seizure in January of a consignment of eighty 250-litre drums of suspected uncustomed ethanol at Africa Spirits Ltd.

Those facing arrest include Peter Njenga Kuria, Stuart Gerald Herd, Robert Murithi and Geoffrey Kaaria. The others are Sethu Prabhu, Eric Nzomba, Simon, Kepha Gakure, and the two companies.

Sufficient evidence

Gakure is a tax manager at Africa Spirits and WOW Beverages, Simon is the shift manager at Africa Spirits, Sethu is the assistant production manager while Nzomba is a driver.

Haji said he was satisfied that there was sufficient evidence and that it is in the public interest to charge the suspects.

“The suspects will be charged with being in possession of uncustomed goods contrary to Section 200 (d) (iii) of the East African Community Customs Management Act, 2004,” he said.

Other charges include conspiracy to contravene Section 193 as read with Section 203 (e) of the Act and being in possession of counterfeit excise stamps contrary to Section 40 as read with Section 41 of the Excise Duty Act, 2015.

“They will also be charged with aiding the commission of tax offense contrary to Section 101 of the Tax Procedures Act, 2015 as read with Section 40 of the Excise Duty Act 2015,” the DPP stated.

Haji said the suspect will also face charges of being in possession of excisable goods affixed with counterfeit excise stamps contrary to the law, failing to pay tax and fraud in relation to tax.

“Consequently, I have directed the DCI to pursue investigations into the aspect of money laundering and thereafter forward the resultant investigations file for my perusal and advise.”

Haji said that in January, detectives intercepted a truck and trailer, registration number ZF 3996, suspected to be transporting uncustomed goods.

After conducting surveillance, the DPP said officers trailed the vehicle to the premises of Africa Spirits/WOW Beverages where they intercepted it.

A multi-agency team comprising of officers from the DCI and KRA conducted a joint operation in the presence of the firms’ employees and found a consignment of ethanol.

The team also found 880 reels each containing 24,000 fake excise stamps. There were 41,703 cartons containing 1.2 million assorted alcoholic drinks affixed with counterfeit excise stamps.