KENYA – Africa Spirits Limited (ASL), a Kenyan-based alcoholic beverages manufacturer, has been handed back to its owner, tycoon Humphrey Kariuki, as the first move to a resumption of operations.

The firm’s premises had been closed in 2019 by the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) after finding consignments of fake excise stamps and illicit ethanol at the premises.

From the report submitted by the KRA, the beverage companies (including ASL) had evaded tax payments amounting to Sh41.5 billion (US$333.66m).

In a statement on the handing over of ASL back to its owner, KRA said: “In collaboration with other investigative agencies, KRA has today overseen the handing over of Africa Spirits Limited by the Directorate of Criminal Investigation (DCI) to the owners. The Authority will facilitate the reopening and operation of the plant.”

“The reopening of Africa Spirits Limited aligns with the need for economic development and independence by maximizing revenue collection.”

The taxman has also reopened 26 other firms that had been closed over various tax charges, claiming it will help boost tax collection and ultimately spur the country’s economic growth.

During the closure of the company, Mr. Kariuki, together with directors of Wines of the World (WOW) and African Spirits Ltd, including Peter Njenga, Robert Thinji Mureithi, Eric Mulwa Nzomba, and Kefa Gakure, were arraigned in Court.

Mr. Kariuki and his co-accused faced a charge of owning uncustomed goods where the prosecution alleged that he was holding 80 drums of 250 liters, each of ethanol valued at Sh7,402,958 without paying tax.

They had also been charged with omitting from the value-added tax (VAT) returns of Africa Spirits Limited an amount of Sh2.1 billion and another count of omitting from the return of excise of Sh5.9 billion. (Ksh122.8-US$1)

Following an application by Africa Spirits Limited and Wow Beverages seeking to ascertain the state of the factory and the premises in 2020, the Nairobi Court stumbled upon empty barrels of ethanol while others were found to be missing, prompting the factory to be marked as a crime scene.

Inside the factory premises, defense lawyers led by Cecil Miller and Wilfred Nderitu pointed out to the court that all the gates to various warehouses had been interfered with since they had fresh welding marks, despite having Kenya Revenue Authority seals.

During the previous visits, the court was met with a similar scene where it witnessed missing or tampered Kenya Revenue Authority seals, vandalized safes, alcohol boxes, broken bottles, and damaged electric switches. The server room was also forcibly broken into and machines vandalized.

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