Kariuki freedom short-lived as detectives rearrest him
Billionaire businessman Humphrey Kariuki spent his first night in police custody after he was re-arrested by detectives moments after being freed by a Nairobi court on an Sh11 million cash bail.
The city tycoon had been charged with evading paying tax amounting to Sh41 billion.
But, as Kariuki who has been playing a cat-and-mouse game with the police was basking in what turned out to be short-lived freedom, detectives from the Flying Squad led by Musa Yego pounced and whisked him away to the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) headquarters.
“We have handed him over to our colleagues at DCI headquarters who are looking into what charges to prefer against him. He is likely to be charged in court in the morning,” Yego said last evening.
Kariuki’s lawyer Kioko Kilukumi denied his client had been re-arrested even as detectives said he was likely to be charged with a new count of illegally importing ethanol in April.
Kilukumi said Kariuki had been taken to the DCI headquarters in line with a court order that required him to present himself before police for processing, which ought to have been done before plea-taking.
“Though we are here, my client has not been rearrested. We are simply complying with a court order that required him to have his finger prints taken before appearing in court to take plea,” Kilukumi said.
But a senior detective indicated that Kariuki was likely to be charged with illegally dealing in ethanol.
In April, detectives from Parklands impounded a truck on the Nairobi-Namanga highway after they found it transporting contraband ethanol.
The truck was seized after documents indicated the driver was transporting maize while it was reportedly loaded with ethanol from Tanzania. It was a dramatic incident that saw regular police officers manning a roadblock near Athi River disarm their DCI counterparts in a bid to free the ethanol and the crew.
Last evening, Mike Muia, the head of Financial Investigations Unit, was grilling Kariuki. Other sources said he might face new charges that were being considered by detectives.
Earlier in the day, the tycoon had honoured summons to appear in court and denied several charges.
Appearing composed, he, alongside six others appeared before Nairobi Chief Magistrate Francis Andayi to answer to tax evasion charges, among others.
Kariuki resurfaced a week after Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji recommended his prosecution over several charges linked to his extensive business empire.
At 10.13am Kariuki and his co-accused denied charges of failing to pay tax, fraud, being in possession of counterfeit excise stamps, uncustomised goods, excisable goods affixed with counterfeit excise stamps, committing a tax offence and forgery.
As the magistrate read out the charges, the businessman, donning a black jacket, a white shirt and khaki trousers, listened attentively as lawyer Kilukumi argued his client had learned from the media that he was being sought.
He also informed the court that there was no warrant of arrest issued and that the tycoon voluntarily appeared in court to take the plea.
Kilukumi said Kariuki flew into Nairobi on Sunday evening so he could appear in court yesterday morning. The court had summoned Kariuki on August 9 after he failed to appear to face the charges.
A search mounted by a multi-agency security team last week reportedly traced the businessman to London after it emerged he was out of the country.
While applying to have his client to be granted bail, Kilukumi refuted claims that Kariuki had gone into hiding, insisting that he is not a flight risk.
“There was no warrant of arrest either local or international issued against him,” argued Kilukumi.
“It is his constitutional right to be granted bail. We ask you to grant our plea on reasonable bail terms,” he added.
In his ruling, the magistrate said it will be discriminatory to detain Kariuki as requested by the prosecution and granted him a bond of Sh22 million or a cash bail of Sh11 million in the three files opened against him by the State.
He, however, directed that the businessman appears before the DCI within six hours after he meets the bail or bond terms.
Earlier, the defence told the court that Kariuki is not a direct investor in Africa Spirits Limited but was an investor through a company.
The billionaire is charged alongside three directors of WOW Beverages Limited, four others from Africa Spirits and a driver said to be an accomplice.
The other suspects are Stuart Gerald (director, WOW Beverages), Peter Njenga Kuria (director, Africa Spirits Ltd), Robert Thinji Murithi (director, WOW Beverages), Geoffrey Kinoti (director, Africa Spirits).
Others are Sethu Prabhu (assistant production manager, Africa Spirits), Eric Nzomba (driver) and Kepha Gakure (tax manager, Africa Spirits).
The court ordered all the suspects to be released on Sh22 million bond each with a surety of a similar amount or pay alternative cash bail of Sh11 million each.
The six, who pleaded to the 19 counts in the three files yesterday, were also ordered to deposit their passports in court and warned not to leave the country during the trial period without permission from the court.
The magistrate issued a warrant of arrest against Nzomba, the driver, after he failed to honour court summons.