NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 14 – The prosecution in a tax evasion case against businessman Humphrey Kariuki had a hard time Tuesday, after it emerged that it had not complied with a court order to supply his counsel with documents pertaining the matter.
Lawyer Kioko Kilukumi – representing Kariuki alongside Cecil Miller – told the court they had been supplied with conflicting witness statements.
“We got an inventory with 28 witnesses but were supplied with statements of seven witnesses. We do not have statements of 21 witnesses,” Kilukumi told the court.
He said that without full disclosure, it was not possible to fix hearing dates for the case.
On Tuesday, Kariuki’s defence informed the court that the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution (ODPP) indicated that it would require them to attend site visits at Africa Spirits Limited, Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) and the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI), where exhibits are held.
However, lawyer Wilfred Nderitu for the 5th accused raised concern over the site visits, arguing it was not proper at this stage for KRA, which is the complainant in the case to be holding evidence.
But the prosecution clarified that all the evidence in the case was being held at the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI).
Africa Spirits Limited in Thika was raided in January 2019, before Kariuki faced charges eight months later.
The factory has remained shut since, rendering 600 employees jobless.
Other lawyers in the case concurred with Kariuki’s defence team, saying they had inventories with nine witnesses while others had seven or six.
Lawyer Rubeena Dar for the fourth accused person told Magistrate Martha Mutuku that when she visited the DCI offices for verification, she did not find original documents as the court directed.
She further told the court that the bundle of documents supplied contained documents from Keroche Industries, whose directors are facing a similar case.
Lawyer Edward Oonge also indicated he came across documents relating to Keroche Industries in his bundle of documents.
The defence lawyers argued that the documents supplied should be consistent for all accused persons since they were facing similar charges.
Magistrate Mutuku took issue with the prosecution for failing to supply the court with a paginated inventory containing the list of witnesses, their statements and exhibits to be used.
She said it was necessary to have the inventory for the court to refer to and confirm compliance with the order of the court and its absence from the court record meant the prosecution was not ready.
The magistrate directed that the matter be mentioned on February 26 to confirm compliance by the prosecution after which hearing dates will be fixed.
In a previous court appearance, lawyer Cecil Miller told High Court judge Luka Kimaru that KRA was losing over Sh76 million monthly in taxes that Africa Spirits Limited used to remit, which amounts to almost Sh1bn in lost revenue so far.
In the months following closure of the factory, a policeman died at the premises while break-ins have been reported with the latest being by two people who were charged with theft this week.
The premises are guarded by the police.