Protests as workers denied entry to billionaire Humphrey Kariuki’s Thika factory

By , K24 Digital
On Mon, 5 Dec, 2022 22:32 | 3 mins read
Protests as workers denied entry to billionaire Humphrey Kariuki's Thika factory
A section of protestors outside highly guarded Africa Spirits Ltd on Monday, December 5, 2022. PHOTO/Mathew Ndungu

The row between embattled billionaire Humphrey Kariuki and the government took a new twist on Monday, December 5, after staff were denied entry into his Thika-based Africa Spirits Ltd by security officers.

Operations of the liquor firm that was closed down over three years ago were set to commence today but the plan did not materialise after General Service Unit (GSU) officers blocked tens of workers who had reported at the firm following a notification from the firm’s lawyer to the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA), police and the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP).

Staff at the firm held demonstrations outside in protest of the decision to deny them entry claiming the government agencies were acting in contempt of a court order that had instructed them to hand over the premises to the owners.

A section of protestors outside highly guarded Africa Spirits Ltd on Monday, December 5, 2022. PHOTO/Mathew Ndungu

As early as 8:00 am, a new team of security guards was set to take over from GSU officers but were only watching the premises from afar as the men in uniform could not allow them.

Armed with twigs, other employees led by Anthony Wangai, a welder, regretted that since the closure of the firm over alleged tax evasion, their lives drastically changed as they entirely depended on salaries they drew from the company for survival.

According to the employees, some of their colleagues had fell depression, some are still struggling to repay loans, others were plunged into family breakups while others went back upcountry over lack of alternative sources of income.

“It is very disturbing that one government is speaking in two tongues. For a simple court order not to be respected is very intriguing and why the investigators are still holding this company hostage remains a mystery to us. I’m one of the many people who were drawing salaries here and for the over four years that it has been closed, life has been full of miseries,” Wangai stated.

His sentiments were echoed by Wanjiru Mwangi, a general staff who took issue with KRA, DCI and DPP for continued failure to obey the court order issued by the high court on November 23, 2020, saying the move has left them more confused.

“This company has been generating a lot of revenue for the government and so far, it has not been found to have broken any laws and for that, the hustler government should move quickly and interrogate why the owners and our staff are still mistreated,” Mwangi lamented.

Officers manning the premises stated that negotiations were still ongoing and would only allow the employees in once they receive communication from their bosses.

“We have no issue with the workers but all the procedures must be followed. Right now, we are waiting to receive communication to facilitate the handover or otherwise. Until then, we will continue to do our job,” one of the officers said.

The embattled businessman’s firm was shut down by Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) three years ago over alleged tax evasion.

The revenue collector has been seeking to overturn a High Court’s decision that quashed charges against Kariuki's business alongside his associates at the Court of Appeal.

Kariuki and his partners are accused of being in possession of uncustomed goods and evading tax, charges they have dismissed as illegitimate, malicious and ones with zero legal backings.

In 2019, police and KRA said they had recovered 21 million counterfeit excise stamps and 312,000 litres of suspected illicit ethanol with an estimated tax potential of Sh 1.2 billion after a raid at the factory.

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