Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) has handed over Africa Spirits Limited (ASL), to billionaire Humphrey Kariuki just days after he was appointed by President William Ruto to head a powerful investment committee.
The Thika-based factory was closed in 2019 and kept under the watch of the taxman and the Directorate of Criminal Investigation (DCI) on the accusation of Sh41 billion in tax evasion.
Its doors had been shut, complete with DCI and KRA seals, and premises gates manned by the police.
“The factory doors were opened on Wednesday and the seals from KRA and DCI broken in the presence of senior officials from the DCI and KRA,” said the company in a statement.
In a petition filed before the High Court in November 2021, ASL’s lawyers said confiscation of the premises and destruction of evidence was orchestrated to remove their ability to challenge and defend themselves in criminal charges made against them.
They said the DCI exceeded its powers by accessing the premises without search warrants, and that occupation of the same and investigations undertaken was illegal and failed to follow due process.
Wednesday, the factory claimed its property has been extensively vandalised as safes have been broken into, equipment destroyed or removed, desks ransacked and CCTV cameras are missing.
Dr Ruto last week picked Mr Kariuki to serve as a member of the National Investment Council for a period of three years.
During campaigns, Dr Ruto had promised to return to business all the enterprises that had been closed under Uhuru Kenyatta’s regime.
The handing over of the factory is the latest development by the Ruto regime to revive businesses and individuals who had become victims of KRA and the DCI zeal.
Dr Ruto also appointed businesswoman Mary Wambui, who is facing a case of tax evasion with KRA as the chairperson of the Communication Authority. KRA has since applied to withdraw the suit.
Ms Wambui together with her daughter Purity Njoki and their trading company Purma Holdings Limited were arraigned in December last year over allegations of evading payment of taxes amounting to Sh2.2 billion.
ASL product categories include Vodka, Brandy and Gin. Brands included Bluemoon Vodka, Bluemoon flavours (Coconut, Apple, Mango & Ginger), Legend Brandy, Legend Black, Furaha Vodka, Furaha Brandy, Furaha Gin and Gypsy King Gin.