Police officers in Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) Nairobi offices on April 17, 2021.
The High Court has blocked investigations ordered by President Uhuru Kenyatta over alleged abuse of office and economic crimes by Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) and its officials, pending determination of a case. The court further stopped the police, acting under the multi-agency inspection team on agriculture reforms, from raiding or breaking into KTDA Holdings Ltd offices or its associated offices, until the case is determined. Through an Executive Order on March 12, Mr Kenyatta directed Attorney-General (AG) Kihara Kariuki "to conduct an inquiry into the alleged statutory and regulatory compliance breaches allegedly committed by KTDA and its directors." He was to look into “potential price and auction manipulation, abuse of dominance, insider trading, wastefulness and breach of directors' fiduciary duties.” Last Friday, investigators raided some KTDA’s offices and warehouses after obtaining a warrant from a Milimani court. “The court hereby issues an order restraining the Respondent by himself, his officers, servants, agents, investigators, inspectors or representatives otherwise howsoever from enforcing or continuing to enforce the ex-parte order issued on April 15, 2021,” Justice Jessie Lesiit said. KTDA Holdings together with KTDA Management Services and Chai Trading Company told the court that the Attorney-General obtained the order on April 15 and raided its offices on Moi Avenue, KTDA Farmers’ House in Nairobi and warehouses in Miritini, Mombasa the following day. KTDA said the raid was conducted by persons donning balaclavas, who also detained staff members for several hours. The order allowed them to access and obtain information, seize computers or any documents over claims of abuse of office, economic crime and money laundering. The multi-agency investigatios followed public outcry on dwindling returns paid to tea farmers and the collapse of tea farming. The team suspects that KTDA officials made unnecessary payments to facilitate fictitious payments in a bid to steal money. It further suspects that the directors of KTDA made illegal payments to themselves and failed to disclose their earnings for taxation. But KTDA said the AG usurped the powers of Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission by purporting to investigate abuse of office and conspiracy to commit economic crimes. The tea agency added that the move was illegal and there was the likelihood that its officials would be charged with trumped-up charges. Justice Lesiit set the hearing on April 29.
Source: Business Daily