Kiambu Senior Principal Magistrate Stella Atambo on Friday lifted a freeze on the accounts of nine companies associated with billionaire businessman Humphrey Kariuki, who has been charged with Sh41 billion tax evasion.
The accounts are held at National Bank of Kenya and Kenya Commercial Bank and were frozen last month after the Director of Public Prosecutions moved to court and secured the orders targeting the accounts of the accused’s company, Wow Beverages, which is based in Thika.
Making the ruling, the magistrate noted that the orders to freeze the accounts were not properly sought.
“The orders that were consequently extracted by the investigating officers included orders of preservation of accounts, an order that was never granted by this court even though the court signed the extracted order which contained the subject preservation orders,” she said.
“The order for preservation can thus be said to have been improperly obtained. It is not sincere for the prosecution to submit that this court has no jurisdiction to correct own mistakes. The prosecution cannot be allowed to ride on orders it never sought and now allege that the court’s hands are tied.”
“I appreciate extensive submissions by both the counsel on the offences of tax evasion and others cited to persuade me in this case, but all those are of no relevance to the fact that a party wishes to ride on orders it never sought and that were never issued,’’ she added.
The court further ruled that the orders to freeze the account of Wow Beverages were never served to the accused.
“If there is no other overwhelming evidence, then there is no reason why this court cannot grant such stay if there are good grounds advanced. The special circumstance herein as earlier stated is that the orders in place, to wit, freezing of account orders were never granted by this court. There was no prayer for preservation of any account made and such is a unique circumstance whereby the extracted order contains an order that was prayed or,” said the magistrate.
The prosecution was given 14 days to appeal the decision.