Kenyan authorities have launched a manhunt for multi-millionaire businessman Humphrey Kariuki on allegations of evading taxes of more than $30 million and smuggling substandard ethanol products into the country.
The authorities believe Kariuki is in Zambia.
According to the Standard Newspaper, Police said they believed Humphrey Kariuki travelled last month to Zambia, where he was reported to have business interests.
“We suspect he is still there,” said a senior official in the probe team.
His local associates were said to be seeking legal advice from various lawyers on the way forward.
Also wanted are two of his managers.
According to a report by the Star newspaper, Kariuki and his key employees went into hiding on receiving news that detectives from the DCI and the police service had raided the beverage company’s offices.
Kariuki has been in hiding ever since.
The Directorate of Criminal Investigations boss, George Kinoti, said Kariuki was wanted for questioning in connection with claims of tax evasion.
Police raided Kariuki’s Thika-based Africa Spirits Ltd plant and seized ethanol, 312,000 litres of liquor and 21 million Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) stamps that officers said were fake.
The popular brands produced by the plant include Bluemoon vodka, Legend brandy and Glen Rock whiskey.
Through its subsidiary — Wines of the World Beverages — the firm also imports and distributes leading brands of wines and premium whiskey from North America and Europe that include Zappa, Bacardi and Southern Comfort.
KRA Commissioner of Intelligence and Strategic Operations Githii Mburu claimed the plant had not remitted Sh3 billion in taxes every month.
“We found about 21 million counterfeit stamps at the factory. That means the commission would have lost Sh1.2 billion. In one production shift, the amount of tax lost is about Sh93 million,” Mr Githii said.
The Government gets about Sh200 in tax from a litre of ethanol, the main ingredient of alcoholic beverages.
Githii added that for every 20,000 litres of smuggled ethanol, the Government loses about Sh4 million.
Kariuki, 62, is the founder of Janus Continental Group, a conglomerate that includes The Hub- a premier shopping mall in Nairobi, Africa Spirits, a leading manufacturer of Alcoholic beverages, Dalbit Petroleum, one of the largest oil distributors in East and Southern Africa, and Great Lakes Africa Energy, a U.K-based company that is a developer and operator of power projects in Southern Africa.
He is also the owner of the 5-star Fairmont MountKenya Safari Club and the neighboring Mount Kenya Wildlife Conservancy and Animal Orphanage.
One of Kenya’s most prominent businesspeople, Kariuki is also one of its most controversial.
He had been linked in the past to organized crime, but always denied his involvement with businesses in the underworld.
Last year he won a libel suit against the popular Standard Newspaper in Kenya on allegations linking him and his businesses to human, narcotics and weapons trafficking.