• The court officials were visiting Africa Spirits Ltd factory for the third time to inspect the premises after reports of vandalism and theft of evidence.
• The factory has been under a 24-hour police protection.
Court officials on Tuesday visited a firm associated with businessman Humphrey Kariuki in Thika and found the premises vandalised and some items missing.
The court officials were visiting Africa Spirits Ltd factory for the third time to inspect the premises after reports of vandalism and theft of evidence.
The officials, led by Nairobi chief magistrate Francis Andayi, stumbled on empty barrels of ethanol, broken bottles, empty shelves and pallets as well as vandalised offices and equipment.
The third visit to the factory followed an application by Africa Spirits Ltd and Wow Beverages seeking to ascertain the state of the factory.
The factory, which is a designated crime scene, was closed January last year after a raid by a multi-agency team of police officers and KRA officials in connection with a tax evasion case. It was then put under a 24-hour police protection.
On August 31, 2019, an AP officer, who was allegedly drunk on duty, died at the facility. Police, however, denied that he was drunk and only indicated that he tripped on the stairs and was pronounced dead on arrival at Thika Level 5 Hospital.
Inside the factory premises, defence lawyers Cecil Miller and Wilfred Nderitu told court officials that all the gates to various warehouses had been interfered with since they had fresh welding marks despite having the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) seals.
Miller told the court that the marking on the doors clearly showed that the warehouses were broken into before they were welded back.
In one of the warehouses identified as A, it was established that a KRA customs seal that had been used to secure the doors was missing.
It also emerged that the doors to the warehouse had been welded together, but it was unclear when this was done.
In another warehouse where finished products were stored before shipment, shelves were empty and vandalised pallets scattered all over the floor.
"I wish to take notice of the inventory attached on the pillar in the warehouse which shows various products by batch, brand, cartons and shows what is missing and present. The court should note the discrepancy in the numbers," Miller said.
Also evident during the visit were missing computers, TV sets, and barrels of ethanol. The server room was also forcibly broken into and machines vandalised.
CCTV cameras were also vandalised and lawyers noticed water bottles with 2020 manufacture dates in rooms that were supposedly sealed from last year.
“Safes have been broken into and money plus other important documents stolen. We are waiting for the court’s decision or ruling on whether it has established theft of properties at our client’s firm so that we can seek justice,” lawyer Nderitu said.
Andayi was informed that General Service Unit (GSU) officers took control of security at the premises on June 24 this year. Before that, the factory was guarded by regular police from Thika.
Meanwhile, the court has directed Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji to respond to the application by Africa Spirits Limited and WOW Beverages by Wednesday. The other parties are to respond in seven day.
The court will hold a virtual mention on September 28.
Kariuki has since been charged with tax evasion amounting to Sh41 billion. He denied the charges and was released on Sh15 million bail.
Three directors of African Spirits Company were also charged with tax evasion charges.
They are Kepha Githinji Gakure, Robert Thinji Murithi and Peter Njenga Kuria. They were accused of failing to remit Sh36.5 billion to KRA.
They denied the charges and were released on Sh11 million bail each.
Established in 2004, Africa Spirits Limited has brands of Brandy, Gin and Vodka.
Some of their products are Legend Gold Brandy, Blue Moon Vodka, Blue Moon Vodka flavours (apple, mango and ginger), Gypsy King Gin and Furaha range.
Edited by A.N