The taxman is looking to seize and auction property owned by a firm associated with controversial businessman Kamlesh Pattni to recover unpaid levies of Sh2.2 billion.
Already, the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) has hired Keysian Auctioneers to attach office furniture and fittings owned by the Pattni-associated Diplomatic Duty Free Limited over taxes of Sh784 million and penalties amounting to Sh1.459 billion.
Court records now show that auctioneers walked into a 2,137 square foot duty-free shop on the first floor of Jomo Kenyatta International Airport’s Wing B and secured several office furniture and fittings despite protests from the employees, who claimed that the agents had seized assets of a different company.
Keysian Auctioneers was to make Sh88.3 million from the seizure and auction of Diplomatic Duty Free’s assets.
The duty-free shop raided by Keysian Auctioneers on July 9 was under the name Suzan General Trading JLT, which is also associated with Mr Pattni. A day later, Suzan General wrote a protest letter to KRA demanding release of its property, with a threat to sue.
Keysian Auctioneers in the inventory stated that it was given permission to attach assets owned by Diplomatic Duty Free or any company related to it.
The documents Suzan General has filed in court do not indicate whether the taxman listed it as Diplomatic Duty Free’s sister company.
A week later, Suzan General moved to court arguing that the taxman’s seizure was a ploy to force it into paying taxes owed by a separate firm — Diplomatic Duty Free.
High Court judge Pauline Nyamweya issued a temporary order barring KRA and Keysian Auctioneers — from auctioning Suzan General’s goods.
The taxman is yet to respond to Suzan General’s suit. Justice Nyamweya granted KRA time to correct a few errors in its replying affidavit.
The judge has ordered Suzan General and KRA to appear before her on October 9 for further directions. “None of the goods and chattels purportedly secured and left at Suzan General’s premises are owned by Diplomatic Duty Free Limited,” the firm’s general manager Asif Abbas says. Suzan General is a United Arab Emirates-registered firm. It obtained authority to operate in Kenya as a foreign company on March 30, 2010, just three months after being incorporated.
While it is associated with Mr Pattni, the only listed shareholder, as per documents filed in court, is Marwa Investment Limited. Marwa Investment owns 300 shares each valued at 1000 Dirham (Sh27,488).
Keysian was yet to carry out a valuation of the goods seized. The auctioneer however noted in the inventory that a warrant of attachment was served on a Suzan General employee only identified as Mr Mugo, who refused to sign the document.
Diplomatic Duty Free ran duty-free shops at JKIA until 2013 when the Kenya Airports Authority repossessed the space and advertised tenders. The taxes KRA is demanding date back to 2013, some of which relate to alcoholic drinks Diplomatic Duty Free had in its stores before being evicted from JKIA.
KRA debt enforcement manager Asha K Salim wrote to Diplomatic Duty Free on July 9, demanding payment of the taxes and penalties, failure to which would lead to enforcement. The taxman first demanded taxes from Diplomatic Duty Free in October 2013, the court documents show.