Businessman Humphrey Kariuki, who is facing a Sh41 billion tax evasion case, has accused the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Noordin Haji of denying him access to evidence he intends to present in court.
“Seven months after taking plea and one year after investigations began the DPP has not supplied us with all the witness statements and exhibits,” Mr Kariuki’s lawyers Kioko Kilukumi and Cecil Miller told Chief Magistrate Francis Andayi at the Milimani Law Courts on Wednesday.
Mr Kilukumi told the court that he wrote to the DPP in January seeking to be furnished with the evidence in order to prepare for the pretrial.
He argued that despite much fanfare when the tycoon and eight co-accused were charged, Mr Haji had misused the court process and abused his prosecutorial powers. The court had ordered the DPP to furnish the defence with evidence by January 14 and the case for mention on February 26 to establish whether the prosecution would have complied with orders.
The lawyers told Magistrate Andayi that despite the order, they were only called to the offices of the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) two days before the court date and given the statements of 29 out of 37 witnesses.
Mr Kilukumi further noted that the inventory showed that there are unnamed bank officials from National Bank of Kenya #ticker:NBK and Equity #ticker:EQTY whose nature of evidence is unknown. He questioned how the defence would prepare for the case without all the statements.
The lawyers further noted that closure of Mr Kariuki’s businesses — Thika-based beer manufacturer Africa Spirits Limited (ASL) and Wow Beverages Limited (WBL)– one year ago has affected the livelihoods of thousands of workers and their dependants.
Other defence lawyers, Manases Mwangi, Ben Nzakyo, Rubena Dar and Wilfred Nderitu, concurred with Mr Kariuki’s defence team saying they too were yet to receive complete evidence.
The lawyers also called for the speedy conclusion of the case.
“Mr Kariuki is an international businessman. Any delay in disposing the case means his businesses are being destroyed,” Mr Kilukumi argued, adding that the suit could have been concluded in the seven months.
“I urge this court to intervene and stem further abuse of the accused’s rights,” he said.
Mr Andayi has directed the DPP to call a joint pre-trial conference on April 9, 2020 to be attended by all defence lawyers to identify the evidence that shall be relied on in the case.
He also ordered the defence team to write to the DPP pointing out what exhibits and statements they require to be availed before the joint pre-trial conference.
The liquor billionaire has denied charges of failing to remit to the Kenya Revenue Authority in excess of Sh41 billion in tax.
The case will be mentioned on May 21, where the DPP will be expected to where he provided the defence team with the evidence.