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Economy

KRA staff seized in purge on Telegram group sabotage bid

Kenya Revenue Authority employees
Some of Kenya Revenue Authority employees at Milimani Law Court in Nairobi on May 15, 2019. PHOTO | DENNIS ONSONGO | NMG 

More Kenya Revenue Authority employees have been arraigned on suspicion of abetting tax evasion and bribery amid claims of plotting to sabotage the tax agency over earlier arrests.

Eighteen KRA staff were Wednesday arraigned before Senior Resident Magistrate Paul Mayova as the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) sought to have them detained for 21 days.

Through State lawyer Duncan Ondimu, the DCI told the court that the suspects had formed a group on social media platform Telegram to interfere with the ongoing investigations.

He disclosed that in the chat group, the suspects had plotted on how to sabotage operations at the KRA and jeopardise ongoing investigations.

Mr Ondimu said the suspects used pseudo names and that others had confessed to being members of the chat group.

This emerged as the 38 suspects, who were locked up for 14 days on Monday, moved to the High Court to challenge their detention while seven among the 48 who are on the run have sought to block their arrest.

“Currently investigations are at a critical stage and one of the key aspects is electronic evidence and that the more the delay the higher chance of interference of evidence is manifested,” said Mr Ondimu.

He also told the court that the activities of the suspects pose a risk to the national security and economy.

Mr Ondimu said there are compelling reasons to detain the new suspects further like the others who were arraigned on Monday.

The detectives said they need more time to retrieve data from 178 seized mobile phones and laptops as well as M-Pesa statements for forensic examination.

The DCI also argued that the 48 KRA staff on the run could interfere with 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.

Some of the 38 suspects reckon that their fundamental rights had been violated and that they run the risk of serving unfair pretrial custody.

Through their advocate, Tom Ojienda, they argued that the detention violates their right to freedom since no charges had been lodged against the suspects being held.

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