Tax evasion case against Keroche Breweries owners Tabitha Karanja and Joseph Karanja has finally kicked off, after being postponed twice.
The pre-trial conference for the case was held today at the Milimani Law Courts, with the two sides, prosecution and defence, setting ground rules for the hearing.
The parties reached a consensus on the trial dates which were set for January 27-29, 2020.
The Karanjas are facing charges of tax evasion amounting to Ksh14.4 billion, which was subject to consensus between Kerocho and KRA.
Appearing before the National Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee, Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji said that talks between the Kenya Revenue Authority and the KRA had flopped, forcing the arrests.
“We were trying to negotiate with Keroche an out of court settlement involving KRA, but it didn’t materialise. We took over a month with Mr Kariuki and KRA, but there was no agreement on the matter,” Mr Haji told the MPs.
However, Mrs Karanja had earlier on accused the taxman of trying to arm twist the company after she attended a ‘hearing’ at KRA’s offices in Upperhill.
According to the CEO, the ‘hearing’ turned out to be a humiliation which she left after three hours following a ‘disrespectful and humiliating’ ordeal.
She left after receiving intel from junior Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) officials that their seniors were planning her “detention and arrest.” Two weeks later, the DPP has ordered her arrest and prosecution.
“The 3 hours included an attempted cross examination – without any documentation – on allegations of tax evasion by several officers who did not identify themselves. The summoning officer – The Commissioner, I & E did not attend and his implied representative, a Dr Karanja, without introducing himself to us, only made a 5 minutes appearance during the 3 hour ordeal,” she said.
Founded in 2009 and wholly owned by the Karanja family, Keroche started by making spirits and wines before diversifying into beer. It was the first ever Kenyan-owned company to brew beer which for a long time was the preserve of East African Breweries Limited (EABL).
As a result, Keroche’s Summit Lager and Summit Malt beers have for the past few years competed with products by Diageo’s East African Breweries, which enjoys a commanding lead with it popular Tusker brand.