How Keroche owners’ children escaped arrest by KRA agents
The four children of Keroche Breweries owners Tabitha Karanja and her husband James Karanja escaped arrest narrowly last month after their mother opted to show up alone when they were summoned by the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA).
Documents obtained from the tax agency show that Mrs Karanja, the CEO of the beer manufacturer, together with her husband, who is also the chairman of the board, sons John Muigai and Edward Mwangi and daughters Annalisa Wanjiru and Patricia Wangari Muigai, had all been summoned by the KRA commissioner in charge of investigations and enforcement, Mr Justus Kiuvu, on August 8 to appear before the taxman for questioning over tax evasion claims.
But Mrs Karanja showed up alone at the KRA offices in Nairobi’s Upper Hill area after the Keroche board resolved to exclude the other directors (children) from presenting themselves before the KRA detectives.
By Thursday, Mrs Karanja was still apprehensive that the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) intended to arrest her, her husband and their four children, who are all directors of the Naivasha based brewery.
The DPP, through State Counsel Gikui Gichuki, however gave her an assurance that there were no plans to arrest them over the tax evasion claims.
In a letter to KRA Commissioner General James Mburu dated August 13, Mrs Karanja protested against the manner in which the summons to appear at KRA offices was issued.
She explained that the company had religiously remitted taxes on a monthly basis for the past nine years on the contentious 188ml Crescent Vodka, which is what is in the 500ml Vienna Ice ready-to-drink vodka.
Mrs Karanja further argued that she was handled “in the most disrespectful and humiliating manner for three hours” after the summons. She left the offices because of the embarrassment, she stated.
“The three hours include an attempt for cross-examination, without any documentation, on allegations of tax evasion by several officers who did not identify themselves,” she said, adding that she had been informed that the questioning would only take five minutes.
She said the interrogation was done by five officers at different intervals, who presented themselves in a manner that suggested the session was ad hoc “and was being controlled and managed by someone or persons who are running an unofficial operation with KRA”.
“It was a bizarre and shameful exercise that only ended when I made a decision to disengage from what was obviously an unofficial kangaroo court convened to intimidate and embarrass me,” she protested.
The couple was later arrested but her husband was spared the agony of spending a night in police custody. He was freed on personal bond after intervention from his doctor, Dr Dan Gikonyo, stating that he had just undergone life-saving surgery.
Mrs Karanja was not as lucky as she was locked up overnight at the Muthaiga Police Station before being taken to court the next day.
On Thursday, Justice James Wakiaga marked as settled the petition by Mrs Karanja seeking to block the arrest of her entire household.
Through state counsel Gichuki, the DPP said he was not intending to arrest Mrs Karanja now that she and her husband had already pleaded not guilty to the charges of tax evasion and had been released on bail.
The charges stated that they were involved in fraud by posting incorrect statements on excise duty by reducing the company’s tax liability. They are alleged to have committed the offences between February 20, 2015 and July 20, 2019.
Chief magistrate Francis Andayi directed Mr Karanja to post Sh2 million cash bail to secure his release. Mrs Karanja was directed to deposit cash bail of Sh10 million plus Sh15 million on behalf of the company.
The case will be mentioned tomorrow to confirm whether the Sh15 million cash bail deposited on behalf of the company, has been paid. The parties will also confirm whether the prosecution has supplied the defence with witness statements and list of exhibits, with a view to setting a hearing date.