KTDA directors block arrest amid DCI probe

David Ichoho

Kenya Tea Development Agency Chairman David Ichoho during a press briefing in Nairobi on December 1, 2021. 

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Fresh trouble is brewing at the Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) as court proceedings have revealed a standoff between the firm’s directors and investigative authorities over an ongoing probe.

High Court judge Hedwig Ong’udi on March 28, 2023 issued orders barring the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) from arresting KTDA officials.

The firm has sued the DCI and National Police Service (NPS) seeking orders to quash investigations it argues are part of a harassment scheme against the current Board of Directors.

The KTDA claims in its suit that the new investigation is linked to a protracted war between past and current directors fighting over control for the company that holds the multibillion-shilling interests of over 600,000 smallholder farmers.

Justice Ong’udi will mention the case on May 15, 2023 to confirm if all parties have filed their respective documents, before setting a hearing date.

“Pending the inter-partes hearing and determination of the petition filed herewith, this honourable court hereby issues a conservatory order restraining the 1st and 2nd respondents (DCI and NPS)... from enforcing, demanding and/or effecting arrests of the officers and employees of the petitioners (KTDA and KTDA Management Services Ltd), the subject matter of the contents of the DCI’s letter dated January 12, 2023 and February 21, 2023,” Justice Ong’udi ordered.

The DCI and NPS are yet to file responses to the suit.

Detectives had demanded for several documents detailing KTDA’s spending and summoned some members of the current Board of Directors.

Directors summoned are CEO Wilson Muthaura, Abungana Khasiani and Erick Kipyegon Chepkwony.

“I verily believe that it is in this respect that the summons received by the KTDA through the DCI’s letter dated January 12, 2023 directed at the current Board members and further summoning, with a view to be interrogated and record statements from the employees of KTDA and KTDA Management Services Ltd through their letter dated February 21, 2023 is a continuation of the harassment and threats against the petitioners solely intended to take control over the management and affairs of the KTDA,” KTDA company secretary Mathews Odero says in court papers.

Some of its employees summoned include CEO Wilson Muthaura’s personal assistant Thomas Muriithi and personal assistant Ann Gicheha.

Others are finance and accounts officials – Jeff Mesocho, Geoffrey Rotich, Churchill Asega, and Simon Rugut – and human resource official Grace Korir.

Administrative manager Kenneth Rotich and PriceWaterhouseCoopers auditor Kange Saiti had also been summoned by the DCI.

Mr Odero holds that KTDA’s lawyers had already responded, through letters, to questions the DCI had raised in past correspondence.

He adds that the DCI has not stated in the letters why detectives want to interrogate a select group of board members, which the KTDA company secretary argues is against the principles of fair administration.