WOW Beverages employees protest decision by security officers to bar them from accessing their offices

Thursday, August 12th, 2021 01:30 |

WOW Beverages Limited staff yesterday protested against a decision by security officers to bar them from accessing their offices.

The management and employees were set to receive handover of the company’s premises yesterday morning following notification from their lawyer to KRA, DCI and the DPP setting a date for the handover. They were however turned away by GSU officers manning the facility in Thika.

In April, a Nairobi court declined to set aside orders ordering the handover of the premises of the Thika based liquor firm that were closed over tax evasion and other charges.

In his ruling on April 8, Magistrate Francis Andayi dismissed the application by the Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji saying his court lacks jurisdictions to vary his earlier orders.

The Magistrate also noted that the DPP, the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) and the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) were earlier not opposed to the handing over of the premises in November last year when he allowed the application by the defence.

He said the instant application by the prosecution is an afterthought whose reasons are not clear to the court.

“This court lacks juridictions to grant the orders sought by the prosecution and, moreover, no new evidence was brought before this court by the Investigating officer warranting varying the orders as sought,” ruled Andayi in April.

On November 23, 2020, the court granted the directors of WOW Beverages’ request for handover of the premises of the liquor firm.

The Magistrate gave the state seven days to comply with the same orders.

But following the orders, the DPP filed an application seeking to vary the same orders saying the release of the premises back to the directors will jeopardize the ongoing cases pending in court.

The DPP through Carol Segei informed the court that the goods which are at the premises are exhibits in the cases.

The defence through lawyer Benjamin Musyoki insisted the premises is still in the custody of KRA officers and the state had failed to comply with the court orders to handover the same.

"For close to five months there has been no compliance with the said court orders and no step has been shown to have been taken to comply with the same. Any reasonable person looking at the non-compliance would deem it to be open contempt and defiance of court orders," Musyoki told the court in April.

He said that the state has capacity to store the goods which they intend to use as exhibits in their own stores.

The lawyers also disclosed that the closure of the premises of the company and Africa Spirits Limited in Thika has seen loss of over Sh 800 million in monthly taxes to KRA compared to when the companies were operational.

"The deliberate failure to comply with the court orders will certainly bring into disrepute the criminal justice system more so to the office of the DPP, the DCI and KRA in prosecution of tax matters," Musyoki said.

When the court visited the premises last year it noted the same had been vandalized and there were extensive thefts of property while still under the custody of KRA and police officers.

In the case, 2 companies: Africa Spirits and WOW Beverages as well as their directors and shareholders have denied failing to remit alleged taxes between 2016 and 2018.

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