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Economy

High Court hands KRA staff reprieve in corruption suit

Grace Ngenye Macharia
High Court judge Grace Ngenye Macharia. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

The High Court has suspended orders requiring more than 80 Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) staff charged with aiding tax evasion and money laundering to report daily to the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI).

Justice Grace Ngenye Macharia gave the order after 39 defence lawyers protested that the DCI had not made progress in the 21 days granted early May to complete investigations.

“These suspects’ families and schoolgoing children whom they need to attend to but have been going to the DCI’s office yet nothing has come out,” a defence lawyer Philip Nyachoti told the judge.

He submitted that the suspects had also been appearing before the trial court for the routine mentions where the Director of Public Prosecutions to report about the progress made in the investigations.

The staff, who work in the domestic tax department and customs and border control, are accused of helping to fraudulently clear cargo and alter tax returns to help people dodge tax payments.

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Mr Nyachoti said the police were supposed to gather all the required evidence before arresting and parading the suspects in court only to apply for their detention.

“The due process of the law should have been followed instead of the court process being abused by investigators as holding grounds while they mill around gathering evidence,” he said.

Police are still detaining the suspect’s 178 seized mobiles phones, laptops and other gadgets as well as M-Pesa statements, which detectives claim they using for the in-depth forensic examination.

Justice Macharia heard that the KRA Code of Conduct stipulates that if an employee fails to attend a job for 14 days automatically he or she stands dismissed.

Other defence lawyers prayed the taxman not to take such drastic action of sacking the suspects since they were ordered not to go anywhere near the KRA offices pending the determination of the alleged corruption case.

The judge directed the case be mentioned today before Justice Luka Kimaru for further directions.

Earlier, the court had been told that the suspects are not a flight risk and that the analysis of data from their computers could be done in their absence.

The detentions come as the government struggles to raise tax revenues to fund its budget.

The State was short of its revenue target by Sh97.7 billion in the nine months to March.

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