Spirits Billionaire Humphrey Kariuki Wanted Over Alleged Ksh41 billion Tax Evasion and Substandard Alcohol

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By Kenya Confidential Business Editor, Nairobi – August 12, 2019

Kenya Police are hunting for reclusive billionaire Humphrey Kariuki following the Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji ordered for his arrest over Ksh41 billion tax evasion scheme and sale of substandard alcohol.

The DPP said he has enough evidence to charge the businessman and other suspects for being in possession of unaccustomed goods, counterfeit excise stamps, tax evasion and fraud, all amounting to over Ksh41 billion at his alcohol plant in Thika. Haji noted that some of the parties were unsuccessfully offered an opportunity to settle the matter with KRA.

“Therefore applying the provisions of the national prosecution policy and having independently reviewed the file, I’m satisfied that there is enough evidence and it is in the interest of the public to charge the following suspects,” Haji wrote in the statement.

There is no doubt that Kariuki paid Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) and Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) officials millions of shillings to have operated evading taxes and using fake KEBS stamps over the years. Many of the officers accumulated millions while Kariuki made billions -most of which he stashed in foreign countries to build their economies – including Cyprus as its citizen. That is what corruption does to Kenya’s economy.

Police are yet to arrest him in a hunt that follows a February raid at the tycoon’s Africa Spirits Limited led by former Inspector-General of Police Joseph Boinnet and senior Kenya Revenue Authority officials. Police will be seeking Interpol assistance given the billionaire hold dual citizenship   for Kenya and Cyprus.

Detectives led by Inspector-General of Police Boinnet and senior Kenya Revenue Authority officials made what they said was a dazzling find an n estimated 21 million counterfeit excise stamps and 312,000 litres of illicit products — all worth billions of shillings in taxes—were discovered at the Thika factory. 

Terrorism and serious economic crimes police raid Kariuki premises

The DPP further ordered the DCI to investigate the tycoon for money laundering, a blot to Kariuki, 61, who has built a multibillion empire including the five-star luxurious Mt Kenya Safari Club. The items were confiscated at the factory earlier this year following a raid that was conducted by a multiagency team.

“I am satisfied there is sufficient evidence to charge the suspects for the offences of being in possession of unaccustomed goods, counterfeit excise stamps and aiding in the commission of tax. Consequently, I have today directed the DCI to cause the arrest and immediate arraignment of the suspects in court,” said Mr Haji in his statement.

Kariuki’s co-accused are Wow Beverages directors, Stuart Gerald Herd and Robert Thinji Muriithi, and Africa Spirits Directors Peter Njenga Kuria and Geoffrey Kaaria Kinoti Mbombua. Sethu Prabhu, an assistant production manager at Africa spirits, Eric Mulwa, a driver, Simon, a shift manager at the company and Kepha Githu Gakure a tax manager will also face charges for aiding in commission of tax offences.

The order of the tycoon’s arrest followed a raid conducted at the factory earlier this year through which 880 reels of counterfeit exercise stamps each containing 24,000 pieces and over a million assorted alcoholic drinks affixed with counterfeit stamps were nabbed. 80 drums of suspected unaccustomed ethanol were also found at the factory. Some of the firm’s popular brands are Blue Moon Vodka, Glenrock whiskey, Furaha Gin and Legend Brandy.

The raid exposed one of the country’s largest tax evasion scams that saw DCI George Kinoti and the then police Inspector General Boinnet visit the factory and order its closure pending the conclusion of investigations. The factory that was then cordoned off as a crime scene has been shut to date. It is not clear how much the billionaire has lost from the months he has been out of business.

Kariuki was however, questioned alongside some of his senior employees by detectives at the DCI headquarters. Part of the probe centered on his then undeclared dual citizenship which made him move to court to challenge the law that specifies punishment for failure to disclose dual citizenship.

In his submissions, the tycoon claimed that he was not aware that he ought to have disclosed his other citizenship earlier, he further termed the law discriminatory as it does not target foreigners living in the country.

When police raided Humphrey Kariuki’s multimillion alcohol empire in Thika town, the world of Kenya’s most reclusive billionaire was opened for all to see.

Africa Spirits is only a small part of Kariuki’s multibillion empire — all under the name of a holding company, Janus Continental Group and which encompasses all that a billionaire would want: A five-star luxurious Mt Kenya Safari Club originally a retreat to famous Hollywood stars such as William Holden — who founded the club.

Fairmont Mount Kenya Safari Club

Its members once included British wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill and US singer and actor Harry Bing Crosby. The name Janus is significant in one critical way — and for such an empire. Janus, means “the beginning and origin of things”, is an ancient two-faced Roman god who provided protection in the beginnings and endings “at the gates, the doorways, and passages and endings”.

As a god, Janus had the uncanny ability to see both in front and behind; thanks to his being a two-faced god. But when detectives raided one of Janus’ establishments in Thika — it seemed that the protection against any nosy raid on Janus properties had vanished; at the tail-end of January – which ironically stands for the month of Janus.

Unlike other billionaires who love publicity, Kariuki is the country’s equivalent of Brad Kelley, the US tycoon known for his love of exotic animals, and who despite his extra-ordinary wealth shies away from publicity.

Armed with a court order seeking to freeze and investigate his bank accounts and those of his associates, they raided his Fairmont Mount Kenya Safari Club.

The detectives were targeting his vast wealth at the Nanyuki hotel but were shocked to discover only a few valuable movable items. 

On arriving at the establishment, the investigators failed to locate two private jets which they were targeting. 

Instead, they found a much smaller aircraft and a Toyota Land Cruiser. Last Friday, the DCI launched a worldwide manhunt for Kariuki who is out of the country.

DCI George Kinoti  said over the weekend, “I am applying for an international warrant of arrest for Kariuki, through Interpol, for him to be arrested and detained anywhere in the world including all airports.”

Kariuki appears to have been one step ahead of the Kenyan police years ago.