BY GEOFFREY ISAYA
Billionaire Humphrey Kariuki has come out to defend himself, two days after he was charged with evading the payment of taxes totaling Sh41 billion.
In a statement dated August 19 but released to journalists on Wednesday, the businessman said he is a victim of envious individuals, unsettled by his vast business empire across the world.
“The allegations levelled against me are untrue, without merit, fabricated and intended to use the judicial process to tarnish my name.”Kariuki said he is “a law-abiding citizen who believes in the rule of law.”
He claims the said people, who are not mentioned in his statement, want to destroy his reputation and business by implicating him in offences he said he is not aware of.
The tycoon’s troubles started early this year after detectives raided his Africa Limited Spirits firm in Thika, where other than millions of fake excise stamps, they recovered tonnes of undeclared ethanol.
In self-defense, Kariuki who claims he does not directly run the management of the firm refuted owing the taxman a penny, while dismissing the charges as false and in bad faith.
“I also affirm that due to my business interests outside the country, I am in Kenya for less than 130 days a year,” Kariuki said.
He said: “Most of my time is committed to my international ventures, which appear to have attracted jealousy from certain quarters, who are hell-bent on ensuring that they ruin my business by tarnishing my character and reputation through adverse and orchestrated media publicity and implication with offences that I am stranger to.”
Kariuki who calls himself a true Kenyan patriot owing to the massive investment he has made across the country was released on a Sh11 million cash bail after he denied all the charges when he presented himself in court on Monday.
About Africa Spirits Limited, the tycoon said he has no executive management over it “and day-to-day operations, whatsoever.”
He said that all the business ventures he has financed remit taxes to the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA)
“The employment created has a positive impact on many Kenyan families and businesses, directly and indirectly,” he pointed out.
Kariuki was summoned by the court on August 9 after the prosecution applied for the summonses, when three of his employees were charged with the offence of failing to pay tax to KRA as required by law.
He was away when Peter Njenga, Robert Thinji and Kepha Githu Gakure denied tax evasion charges when they appeared before Nairobi Chief Magistrate Francis Andayi on August 9.
Njenga, Thinji and Gakure were released on Sh11 million cash bail each with an alternative of a bond of Sh20 million.
The court had also issued summonses against Stuart Geraid, Simon Maundu, Africa Spirits Limited, and Wow Beverages Limited.
The prosecution told the court that the tax period for which the accused persons are said to be non-compliant covered between February 1, 2016 and December 3, 2018.
The court was told the accused – being licensed excise duty manufacturers and registered taxpayers – deliberately failed to file the amount to the commissioner domestic tax by the due dates as required by law.
The accused persons face nineteen counts, which include being in possession of counterfeit revenue stamps, being in possession of unaccustomed goods and conspiracy to contravene section 193 of the East African Community Management Act 2004.