How Kenyan VP Ruto's hotel hid Shs69billion tax fugitive

Weston Hotel in Nairobi. PHOTO/NMG

What you need to know:

  • The case will be mentioned on December 16 for pre-trial status.

The Weston Hotel, which belongs to Deputy President William Ruto, had concealed the presence of billionaire businesswoman Mary Wambui Mungai as police sought to arrest her over a KSh2.2 billion (about UGX69billion) tax evasion case.

Documents filed in court by investigators say that although Ms Mungai and her daughter Purity Njoki were at the hotel, their presence was not recorded by the receptionist.

“From the records maintained at the reception of Weston Hotel, Ms Mungai and Ms Njoki are not listed as guests on December 8, 2021, despite their personal belongings being found at the premises,” said Inspector Amina Ado.

She told court that on Wednesday, she received intelligence that mother and daughter, who were wanted by court to answer charges of tax evasion, were at the hotel.  She visited the rooms but found the accused had escaped and left behind a black handbag.

“In the bag, I found bank cards, original ID, temporary permit for the Republic of Zambia and a firearm licence, amongst other items, all belonging to Ms Mungai, and subsequently recorded an inventory,” said the investigator.

Government tenders
Ms Mungai, a member of the Friends of Jubilee Foundation, a lobby that raised millions of shillings for President Uhuru Kenyatta’s re-election campaign in 2017 in two hours, was first summoned by the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) in June, along with her daughter, to shed light on alleged unpaid taxes for billions of shillings she earned from government tenders.

The KRA had reportedly issued an alert to seal the border points, including Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA), to prevent the businesswoman from leaving the country.

The investigator from the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI), seconded to the Revenue Protection Service of the KRA, said detectives had searched her home, the Nairobi Hospital and Kiambu Level Five Hospital. The court heard that Ms Wambui and Ms Njoki engaged the investigators in cat and mouse games prior -to yesterday’s court appearance.

The previous day, the officer had circulated a signal to all police stations and divisions to have the accused arrested if seen. She visited the Nairobi Hospital following reports that Ms Mungai had been admitted there since November 29 and the daughter was the caregiver, but the hospital could not disclose the information without a court order.

Jointly with KRA lawyer Judy Thunguri, the investigator wanted court to deny the accused bond for being dishonest and failing to honour court summonses. 

“Of concern to the prosecution is evidence that the permit is indicated to be valid until January 27, 2022, and was found in custody at premises where Ms Mungai had sought refuge in a clear attempt to evade police and avoid being arrested,” stated Ms Thunguri.  “Based on the evidence, Ms Mungai has proved a flight risk and can only be compelled to appear if warrants are issued. We object to the bond or bail.”

However, Senior Principal Magistrate Felix Kombo granted them a Sh50 million bond each after they denied eight counts of evading Sh2.2 billion taxes for six years.

The pair, who are directors of Purma Holdings Ltd, have an alternative of depositing Sh25 million bail each. They had wanted Sh5 million bail. They told court they were remorseful and apologised.

“The first thing to note is that the conduct of the accused in this matter, and as demonstrated, during investigations, was well below the bar and must be condemned. The court did find... that they were dishonest to court and appeared to be more intent on employing tactics to stall or delay the matter,” said Mr Kombo.
He, however, observed that they appeared in court voluntarily without compulsion to answer the charges, saying they could have done that in the first instance to avert controversy.

In relation to KRA’s fear that the accused are flight risks, the court said the apprehension can be addressed through bond terms to secure the accused’s court attendance and integrity of the process and public interest.

He also noted that although Ms Mungai had a valid temporary travel document, she was not caught trying to use it. “Despite everything, the accused have shown that perhaps they deserve a second chance and my inclination is to give it to them.”

The case will be mentioned on December 16 for pre-trial status.

*Written by Joseph Wangui