DPP withholding evidence in Sh41bn tax case: Humphrey Kariuki

Wednesday March 18 2020
By RICHARD MUNGUTI

Billionaire businessman Humphrey Kariuki, who is facing a Sh41 billion tax evasion case, has complained that he has not been supplied with all the evidence in the case.

"Seven months after taking plea and one year after investigations began, the Director of Public prosecutions (DPP) has not supplied us with all the witness statements and exhibits," lawyers Kioko Kilukumi and Cecil Miller told Chief Magistrate Francis Andayi at the Milimani Law Courts on Wednesday.

Mr Kilukumi said he sought the evidence from DPP Noordin Haji in a letter in January, in order to prepare for the pretrial, but that he was yet to receive it.

He further said there was a lot of fanfare when Mr Kariuki and his co-accused were charged yet the DPP failed to present the evidence as required.

BUSINESS IMPACT

The lawyers also told the court that they were called to the offices of the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) two days ago and given the statements of 29 out of 37 witnesses.

Advertisement

Mr Kilukumi noted that the inventory shows the witnesses include unnamed officials from National Bank of Kenya and Equity Bank Limited (EBL).

He also noted that the nature of the evidence by these officials was not disclosed.

Mr Kilukumi wondered how the defence team will prepare sufficiently for the case without all the statements.

"Kariuki is an international businessman with interests locally and overseas. Any delay in disposing the case means his businesses are being destroyed," the lawyer added, noting the case could have been concluded in the seven months.

He added, “Over 2,000 employees of ASL (Africa Spirits Limited) and WBL (Wow Beverages Limited) have been affected by closure of the Thika-based factories by the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) and DCI officers."

He accused the DPP of misusing the court process and abusing his prosecutorial powers.

Mr Kilukumi asked for more time to obtain the witness statements, which a state prosecutor said had already been supplied.

“I urge this court to intervene and stem further abuse of the accused's rights,” he said.

Other defence lawyers who complained about the DPP are Ben Nzakyo, Manases Mwangi, Rubena Dar and Wilfred Nderitu.

They noted the evidence was to be supplied by January 14.

COURT ORDERS

Mr Andayi directed the DPP to call a joint pre-trial conference on April 9, with all defence lawyers, to identify and match evidence that will be used in the trial.

The lawyers were directed to write to the DPP, identifying all the exhibits and statements required.

The court said the case will be mentioned after 85 days, on May 21, for the DPP to confirm supply of the evidence.

Mr Kariuki and ASL and WBL's directors are facing a total of 21 counts of tax evasion and being in possession of counterfeit excise duty stamps.

They have denied charges of evading taxes and being in illegal possession of ethanol worth Sh7.9 million and thousands of fake stamps.

The have also denied nine counts relating to evading taxes amounting to Sh17 billion.