Humphrey Kariuki: From tax evasion charges to hosting State guests

William Ruto Mt Kenya Safari Club

Led by President William Ruto, his deputy Rigathi Gachagua and Chief Minister Mr Musalia Mudavadi and the rest of the cream of government in tow, they reported to the more than 100-acre Mt Kenya Safari Club for a four-day retreat to brainstorm on service delivery. The hotel is owned by billionaire Humphrey Kariuki (left).

Photo credit: PCS

It was a shocker when the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) siezed tycoon Humphrey Kariuki on August 19, 2019 on claims of Sh41 billion in tax evasion.

Mr Kariuki was picked up by DCI sleuths who later drove him to their Kiambu Road-based headquarters.

And when he was finally arraigned, the court ordered him to deposit Sh11 million cash bail to get his freedom back.

He was accused of having failed to pay taxes due to Kenya Revenue Authority for Africa Spirits Limited (ASL), producers of popular varieties of vodka, brandy and gin.

Businessman Humphrey Kariuki

Businessman Humphrey Kariuki in court.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Profiled to be a multibillionaire who is always a phone call away from the seat of power, many thought his end was nigh after the dramatic arrest and the huge tax bill.

In President Uhuru Kenyatta’s first term, Mr Kariuki was in good books as cCbinet retreats were also held at the club.

It was to emerge later that suspected power plays within the government ahead of the August 9, 2022 General Election had found him offside where it is claimed he suffered the ordeal owing to his support for the then Deputy President Dr William Ruto.

Distillery closed

Mr Kariuki, who is the owner of the 4.5 Star Mt Kenya Safari Club on the outskirts of Nanyuki had his distillery closed by the government.

The hotel first opened its doors on June 21, 1959, as a prestigious tourist enterprise.

After three years of fighting in courts, Dr Ruto won the presidency and among his first tasks was to order KRA to release the Thika-based distillery back to Mr Kariuki.

That was not all. Dr Ruto appointed him as a member of the National Investment Council for a period of three years.

And in December, a Nairobi court acquitted the billionaire in a case where he was charged with being in possession of 80 drums of uncustomed ethanol worth Sh7.4 million.

Now it seems Mr Kariuki's costly gamble has finally paid off.

On Thursday, he was smiling all the way to the bank as he welcomed cabinet secretaries to his lavish Nanyuki hotel.

Led by President Ruto, his deputy Rigathi Gachagua and Chief Minister Mr Musalia Mudavadi and the rest of the cream of government in tow, they reported to the more than 100-acre hotel for a four-day retreat to brainstorm on service delivery.

Millionaire businessman Humphrey Kariuki in court over Sh41 billion tax evasion case

In the background, Mr Kariuki would be seen smiling from ear to ear and patting as many backs as possible perhaps for a good deal falling into his empire.

There were no DCI, KRA or Director of Public Prosecutions officials ready to pounce on him.

Cash sale and guarantee

It was only him, cash sale and guarantee of a good cheque from the now ‘friendly’ government.

The club had lived up to its tradition of being a sanctuary for illustrious visitors since it had in its history hosted Hollywood stars, celebrities, royalty and heads of state.

Most notable lodgers in this establishment that is reflective of colonial architectural design providing a glimpse of Kenya from a bygone era include former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and American singer-cum-actor Bing Crosby.

After Dr Ruto was sworn in as president, Mr Kariuki told NTV: "I am personally not interested in those sideshows, what we need is a conducive environment to do business...most of my interests are outside this country.”

He added that consultations and concessions are standard sound practice in how government relates with investors.

He is considered an African success story where from his rural beginnings, he toiled to begin his earnings as an employee of the Central Bank of Kenya before he struck out to venture into the world of business opportunities.

He founded Janus Continental Group, which risked in the continent's petroleum, energy, hospitality and real estate sectors, catapulting him to the world of billionaires.

Editor's note: This article has been edited to remove erroneous statement