Businessman Humphrey Kariuki got a reprieve on Tuesday after a Nairobi court acquitted him of tax evasion charges in a case where he had been accused of being in possession of 80 drums of uncustomed ethanol.
In his ruling, Senior Magistrate Kennedy Cheruiyot said the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) had failed to produce witnesses 16 months after the Thika billionaire was charged.
The defence team led by lawyers Kioko Kilukumi, Cecil Miller and Philip Murgor had asked the magistrate to invoke section 202 of the Criminal Procedure code and acquit the accused.
“The prosecution is not ready to present witnesses even after been given three days to do so, this gives me no option other than to invoke the provisions of section 202 of the criminal procedural code,” the Magistrate said.
Kariuki is the proprietor of Africa Spirits Ltd and WOW Beverages Ltd, both based in Thika.
He was charged after a consignment of 250-litre drums were found at Africa Spirits Ltd’s premises following a raid in January last year.
Despite his acquittal today, the tycoon has two other pending cases touching on tax evasion.
The prosecution had on Monday applied to consolidate the cases against the businessman saying that witnesses and exhibits are the same.
The prosecution told the court that it wanted to consolidate Kariuki’s Ksh41 billion tax evasion case with two other cases including the one on possession of uncustomed goods.
In the third case, the businessman is accused of being in possession of fake custom receipts.
The DPP applied to have the case that was before Cheruiyot mentioned before Chief Magistrate Francis Andayi for consolidation.
But when the accused appeared before Cheruiyot for the hearing, the prosecution said it was not ready to continue with the case as the DPP sought consolidation of the three cases against the businessman.
“We will not be ready to proceed with the hearing today, tomorrow and Wednesday as l have been directed by the DPP to have the matter mentioned before Mr Andayi on December 22 for purposes of consolidation of the three cases,” said the prosecution.
But the defence team opposed the DPP’s move terming it an abuse of prosecutorial powers.
“It is an abuse of the court process for the DPP to wait one year and four months to write to the court, on December 4, on his intention to consolidate the three matters,” said Kilukumi.
Kariuki, who was charged alongside five people, had denied all charges against him.
The latest is a huge blow to the DPP, who last month withdrew charges against Kariuki’s co-accused Stuart Gerald Herd.
Herd is a former director at WOW Beverages.