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Petitioner wants Tabitha Keroche out of Senate race over tax cases

Tabitha Karanja. [File, Standard]

A man has moved to court to stop Keroche Breweries Chief Executive Officer Tabitha Karanja from contesting for the Nakuru Senate seat over tax evasion.

With less than 77 days to the August 9 General Election, Daniel Mahiri wants the court to find Mrs Karanja unsuitable to hold public office.

Karanja is the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) flag bearer in the race.

Mr Mahiri's petition will be heard today by Justice Joel Ngugi, sitting in Nakuru, via a video link.

Mr Mahiri filed the petition in Nairobi on May 12 under a certificate of urgency and listed UDA, Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC), Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) and the Office of the Ombudsman as respondents alongside Mrs Karanja.

But Justice Anthony Mrima ordered that the matter be transferred to the High Court in Nakuru.

The judge said after perusing the petition, he noted that the alleged constitutional violations occurred within Nakuru County, hence the decision to have it transferred.

The matter was placed before Justice Ngugi on May 19 and he directed Mr Mahiri to serve all the parties with the documents.

“The applicant/petitioner to serve all the respondents with all the documents in the file and return for directions inter parties on Tuesday, May 24 by Zoom video conferencing,” reads the order by Justice Ngugi.

Mr Mahiri in the petition has premised his suit on alleged tax evasion and economic crimes by Keroche Breweries.

He says since 2006, Keroche has been accused in numerous cases of crimes related to tax evasion.

“In most instances, the first respondent (Keroche) has in essence admitted to non-payment of taxes and has entered into numerous agreements with KRA for repayment of taxes," the petition reads.

Mr Mahiri says the only times Keroche has agreed to settle the tax arrears are after prosecution.

Tabitha Karanja inspects production at Keroche's Naivasha plant. [Antony Gitonga, Standard]

He says even after being granted a chance through the Alternative Dispute Resolution Mechanism, Keroche has always dishonoured agreements of negotiations, begging the question of whether there is goodwill on her part to pay taxes.

Mr Mahiri says there is an ongoing Criminal Case Number 1436 of 2019 before the Anti-Corruption Court where the CEO has been charged with various offences on taxes amounting to Sh14,451,836,375.

He says Keroche is not only a suspect but a fully admitted tax evader with no pending appeal.

“This speaks of a citizen who is not willing to pay duly owed taxes until she is prosecuted,” the petition reads.

Mr Mahiri reiterates that tax evasion is a crime and acceptance of crime doesn't take away the fact that the crime was committed, on the contrary, it proves beyond any reasonable doubt that the crime was committed and negates any legal basis for the person to be deemed innocent of the crime.