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Raila Odinga yet to respond over BAT bribery saga

By Ally Jamah | December 23rd 2015

Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga is yet to respond to reports that his office was entangled in the bribery saga involving cigarette maker British American Tobacco and Kenya Revenue Authority.

This comes three days after British newspaper the Independent published revelations of whistleblower Paul Hopkins indicating that top officials in Odinga’s office during his tenure as Prime Minister in 2010  wrote to the Kenya Revenue Authority asking them to drop tax demands against tobacco manufacturer Mastermind, a rival of BAT.

KRA had threatened to freeze Mastermind's bank accounts over alleged failure to pay billions of shillings in taxes.

BAT is at the heart of allegations that it gave KRA officials huge bribes to reveal confidential tax records of its bitter rival Mastermind.

The access to the files enabled BAT to know that Mastermind was not paying its tax obligations to KRA in full and resulted in BAT allegedly leading a clandestine campaign for KRA to go aggressively after Mastermind.

"When KRA wrote to Mastermind's bankers threatening to freeze accounts until the outstanding amounts were paid, officials in the office of former Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga stepped in and ordered them to suspend the demands," the report says.

Mr Hopkins, a former Irish special forces soldier, has admitted to the UK Serious Fraud officers that while working for BAT, he offered KRA top officers huge bribes to access the confidential tax files of Bat's rival Mastermind.

According to documents, the then acting Permanent Secretary in Mr Odinga's office by Andrew Mondoh wrote to then KRA head Michael Waweru asking him to suspend the tax demands to Mastermind.

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"You are requested to put on hold the enforcement action you have instituted against Mastermind Tobacco Kenya Limited in order to facilitate further review of the matter," says the letter dated May 4, 2010

It added, "We specifically request you to suspend the agency notices dated 22nd April 2010 addressed to various bankers of Mastermind and the demand notices issued to the company requiring payment within 30 days."

The letter said that a meeting to discuss the issue was scheduled to be held on 12th May 2010 between KRA, Treasury and Mastermind Kenya at the Treasury. It is not clear if the meeting was ever held.

Documents showed the Kenyan tax authority was demanding billions in unpaid taxes from Mastermind but collecting only a fraction of it.

Mr Odinga, who served as Prime Minister between 2008 and 2013, now becomes the fifth Kenyan to be named in the investigations over allegations that BAT bribed tax officials in Kenya to cripple its rival Mastermind.

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