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Zuku founder suffers blow in Sh3bn tax row

Richard Bell
Embattled businessman Richard Bell. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Embattled businessman Richard Bell has suffered yet another blow in a Sh3.4 billion tax evasion suit pitting him against the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) after the High Court declined to stop rival shareholders from participating in the case pending appeal against their enjoinment.

Justice John Mativo ruled that Mr Bell’s fear that the shareholders might bring adverse evidence restrained by court in a separate suit is not a ground to warrant their suspension pending appeal.

The High Court in February allowed Wananchi Nominees Limited, International Consulting Limited (formerly known as ISP Kenya Limited) and East Coast Telecoms Limited to be enjoined in the suit to help the taxman prove his case against Mr Bell.

Mr Bell, a co-founder of Internet and Pay-TV service provider Zuku, filed a fresh application seeking to stop his rival shareholders from participating in the suit in which he is challenging KRA’s move to recognise him as a tax representative of Wananchi Group Holdings Ltd, Wananchi Programming Ltd and Wananchi Satellite Limited.

“The applicant has not demonstrated sufficient grounds to warrant the Court to grant the stay sought.

“In particular, it has not been demonstrated that the applicant has an arguable appeal,” observed Justice Mativo.

The judge noted that Mr Bell has not shown he would suffer substantial loss if they participate and the appeal challenging their participation succeeds.

Mr Bell had argued that since High Court had expunged part of the affidavit filed by rival shareholders, there was no enough grounds to allow them to participate in the case.

But Joe Mucheru, on behalf of the rival shareholders, rejected the assertion, noting that they had demonstrated they have information vital to the case.

The three applicants told the court they had information that the KRA did not have with regard to Mr Bell’s responsibility as the representative of offshore companies that are subject to the suit, a position that makes him directly answerable on the suspected tax avoidance by the said companies.

Mr Bell moved to court seeking to reverse the taxman’s decision requiring him to take responsibility for a Sh3.4 billion tax fraud case against the offshore companies.

The KRA wants Mr Bell held responsible for taxation of Wananchi Satellite and Wananchi Programming, both based in Mauritius, but whose operations the taxman claims are in Nairobi.

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