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Bursted: Faced With Jail Term, Sarrai Group’s Billionaires Attempts To Circumvent The System Lands Them In Hot Soup

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Rakesh Kumar, Sarbjit Singh Rai and Stephen Kihumba at the High Court on May 18, 2023.

The desperation of Uganda-based Sarrai Group senior executives to avoid a possible 6-month jail term sentencing has landed them in even more trouble after their dirty trick was bursted by the Court of Appeal.

They were taken out of hearing list last week after a bench of three Appellate court judges discovered that they dishonestly violated procedures, rushed and fixed the hearing date. The judges who include Hellen Omondi, John Mativo and Grace Ngenye, discovered the notice for hearing date was issued on a Sunday which is outside the law.

The three judges expressed displeasure at the manner in which the process of fixing the hearing dates was rushed. The judges said they were not party to giving the hearing dates.

The firms owners Mr Sarbjit Singh Rai, together with Rakesh Kumar and Stephen Kihumba, were found guilty of contempt by High Court judge Dorah Chepkwony in July last year over failure to cease operations at Mumias Sugar Company.

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They were fined Sh100,000 each and ordered to appear personally before Justice Alfred Mabeya, the presiding judge of the commercial division of the High Court on May 18, and show cause why they should not be committed to jail for six months.

The court also rejected their application seeking to suspend the entire insolvency proceedings in the High Court.

Hurried application

Aware that they may be fined or thrown to jail, the officials rushed to court of appeal in a bid to stop the sentencing.

West Kenya Sugar company had opposed Sarrai’s application..

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Through lead Counsel Muite and Martin Gitonga raised concern over hurried manner in which the hearing of the application was fastracked.

Sarrai Group led by Prof. Githu Muigai had urged the court to suspend all proceedings relating to the lease of Mumias Sugar company.

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“The Court be and is hereby pleased to issue an order of stay, restraining any and all further proceedings in HC IP E004 of 2019, particularly and in respect of the finding of contempt vide the ruling and orders of the Justice Chepkwony dated 27th April and delivered on 28th April, 2023, pending hearing and determination of the Applicants’ Appeal,” pleaded Sarrai.

In a letter dated 15th of May ,2023, C.M Wekesa wrote to Court of Appeal president protesting the manner in which directions on Sarrai Group application were issued.

The letter raised concerns on how directions were issued on the application filed by Sarrai Group seeking to stay their sentencing by the High Court.

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“With tremendous respect, the directions on the hearing of this application on 16th May, 2023 subverts the right to fair trial for the Respondents and pays no regard to the earlier directions issued by this Court on filing of responses and submissions. By 16th May, 2023 when this application is ostensibly fixed for hearing, the timelines for filing responses, rejoinder and submissions would not have lapsed given that the earliest for the pleadings to have been filed and closed on our part being submissions is 21″ May, 2023,” stated the letter.

“How fair will the hearing be without the Respondents’ responses having been filed and given the directions of this court of 19th May, 2023? How can the Court of Appeal fix the application for hearing before the close of the pleadings as per timeline set by the same Court?” Questioned lawyer Wekesa adding that it was unconstitutional.

He wondered why the case was being fast tracked when there were hundreds of applications, pending before the court and we’re yet to be allocated dates.

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“It is even surprising that this Court gave a hearing date of 16 May, 2025 for application E187 of 2023 without giving any directions on the filing of the pleadings. In fact, we learnt of the existence of this application through this Court’s directions fixing the hearing on 16 May, 2023. These directions were issued on Sunday 14 May, 2023,” Wekesa pointed out.

He said the circumstance under which the applications were certified urgent, directions given and the hearing of 16th May, 2023 fixed even before the expiry of filing the responses by the Respondents are troubling and raise more questions than answers.

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On Thursday 18th when the trio appeared before the Court of Appeal, judges Hellen Omondi, John Mativo and Grace Ngenye declined to hear the case over the manner in which the hearing was rushed.

“Before the time for compliance lapsed, a hearing notice was issued on a Sunday in total ambush to the parties, thus undermining the right to a fair hearing as enshrined under Article 50 of the Constitution of Kenya,” the judges said.

The judges took out the case from the hearing list saying it was prematurely and improperly listed before them.

The sentencing has been pushed to June 15.

Another complaint about how Sarrai Group application was being was sent to Chief Justice Martha Koome and Secretary of Judiciary Service Commission.

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Through a letter dated 15th of May this year, Kimeto & Associate wrote to CJ and JSC a second complaint against the acting court of appeal president over misconduct.

The Law firm state that they have not received feedback from Judicial Service Commission over their first complaint and now they have been dragged again into another circus and controversy by the appellate court.

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“As the pending issues in our previous complaint and petition are yet to be addressed, we have now been dragged into yet another circus and controversy by the Court of Appeal in Civil Application No. E185 of 2023-Sarrai Group Limited v Kimeto & Associates & others (E185),” states the letter.

According to the letter, the law firm wishes to raise matters of grave concern that adversely impact the 1″Respondent’s right to a fair hearing and impacts the integrity of the judicial process especially the integrity of the Court of Appeal of this country.

The Law firm is requesting for Chief Justice most urgent intervention is ensuring that justice is served and a hearing is given to the appeals filed by the appellants because the said appellants have abandoned these appeals since they are happy enjoying blanket stay orders at the behest of the court of appeal.

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“It is clear that they do not wish to progress beyond the orders of stay but choose instead to file multiple applications seeking to stay the Insolvency Proceeding in the High Court,” states the letter to CJ.

Kimento & Associate Advocates is requesting for a bench to hear the matter and the bench should exclude Justice Mukhandia and other two judges who handled another civil application.


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