Keroche liquidation bid deepens brewer’s woes

Tabitha Karanja

Nakuru Senator Tabitha Karanja during a past media briefing. 

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

The hearing of an insolvency petition filed against Keroche Breweries Ltd over a debt of Sh233.7 million owed to a Nairobi law firm is set for next month.

In a Kenya gazette notice published yesterday, the firm of Hamilton, Harrison & Mathews Advocates has sought to liquidate the Naivasha-based brewer of failure to clear the legal fees.

The firm currently faces threats from the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) over multibillion shilling tax demand.

“Any creditor or contributory of the said company desirous to support or oppose the making of an order on the said petition may appear at the time of the hearing in person or by his advocate for that purpose and a copy of the petition will be furnished by the undersigned,” the notice dated April 20 stated.

The law firm published the notice after the matter was scheduled for hearing on June 22 before the High Court.

The law firm indicated that any party seeking to join the case should contact them by June 19.

The firm, popularly known as HHM, wants the brewer liquidated under the Insolvency Act and an official receiver appointed as the provisional liquidator.

The advocates, which is one of the leading law firms in the country, says Keroche has been unable to pay the money despite making several demands. The amount arises from legal fees as the law firm defended Keroche in a fight with the KRA.

“In the circumstances, it is just and equitable that the company be liquidated,” the law firm said in the petition.

Keroche CEO Tabitha Karanja was charged afresh in a Sh14 billion tax evasion case in April and the court gave her 45 days to initiate the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) process with the taxman, failure to which the court will commence the trial.

The brewer has been fighting a bid by the KRA to shut down its factory over the tax dispute.

The law firm says Keroche’s debt stood at Sh233.7 million as at July last year and continues to attract interest. This is after the advocates represented Keroche Breweries in several cases at the tax appeals tribunal. 

The law firm is demanding Sh17 million after the bill was taxed and the brewer was directed to pay the amount plus interest. The second case was filed by the advocates demanding payment of Sh32.4 million while in the third case, the law firm is demanding Sh173 million. In another case, the law firm demanded Sh1.6 million.

Keroche Breweries had sought to delay the demand of the payments or quash the amount but the plea was rejected by the High Court in March last year.

In the tax fight, KRA was demanding more than Sh9.1 billion arising from excise duty on the firm’s fortified wines and Viena Ice Ready to Drink Vodka.

The law firm said it served the company demanding payment in March through email and also by registered post but Keroche has refused to pay, leaving them with no option but to file the insolvency case.

In March 2021, Justice John Mativo dismissed Keroche’s bid to quash the legal fees arguing that it was excessive.