City billionaire wanted over Sh41 billion tax evasion
Police were on Thursday evening looking for reclusive billionaire Humphrey Kariuki after the Director of Public Prosecutions, Mr Noordin Haji, ordered his immediate arrest alongside eight others on claims of tax evasion amounting to more than Sh41 billion by Africa Spirits and Wow Beverages in Thika.
He is accused alongside Wow Beverages directors Stuart Gerald Herd and Robert Thinji Muriithi, and Africa Spirits Directors Peter Njenga Kuria and Geoffrey Kaaria Kinoti Mbombua.
After perusing their files, the DPP ssaid, he was convinced there was sufficient evidence to charge the suspects with being in possession of uncustomed goods, counterfeit excise stamps, tax evasion and fraud, all amounting to more than Sh41 billion.
The items were confiscated from the factory in February during a raid by a multi-agency team.
Mr Sethu Prabhu, an assistant production manager at Africa spirits, Mr Eric Mulwa a driver, one Simon, a shift manager at the company and Mr Kepha Githu Gakure, a tax manager at the factory, will also face charges for aiding in the commission of the tax offences.
The DPP further ordered the DCI to investigate the tycoon for money laundering.
During the February raid, the items confiscated included 880 reels of counterfeit excise stamps, each containing 24,000 pieces, and more than 1 million bottles of assorted alcoholic drinks bearing counterfeit stamps.
Eighty drums of suspected uncustomed ethanol were also seized.
Mr Haji noted that some of the parties were unsuccessfully offered an opportunity to settle the matter with the Kenya Revenue Authority.
The raid exposed one of the country’s largest tax evasion scams, which saw Directorate of Criminal Investigations boss George Kinoti and then Inspector-General of Police Joseph Boinnet visit the factory and order its closure pending the conclusion of investigations.
The factory, which was cordoned off as a crime scene, has not operated since then.
Sometime after the raid, Mr Kariuki’s private jet, a Bombardier Challenger 350, was tracked to South Africa after police claimed that he had fled to Zambia to evade arrest. He later presented himself to detectives at the DCI headquarters.
Part of the investigation was on his then undeclared dual citizenship after it emerged that he held a Cypriot passport beside the Kenyan one. To prevent his arrest, he moved to court to challenge the law that specifies punishment for failure to disclose dual citizenship.
In his submissions, Mr Kariuki claimed that he did not know that he should have disclosed that he was also a citizen of Cyprus. He further argued that the law was discriminatory since it does not target foreigners living in the country.
Ironically, Mr Kariuki’s energy firm, Dalbit Petroleum, won a distinguished award for its diligence in paying taxes last year.
His arrest warrant comes after Mr Kinoti warned that those who steal public resources and invest them abroad will be pursued.