Tea factory demands Sh 20m in legal fees from four of its directors and two top KTDA managers over contempt of court case

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Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) company secretary John Omanga and Kiru Tea Directors Stephen Githiga, Easton Gakungu, Peter Kinyua and Francis Macharia and KTDA Chief Executive Officer Lerionka Ole Tiampati and when they appeared in court for contempt of court sentencing. PHOTO/FILE

By JAMES KIMANI

Kiru Tea Factory in Murang’a County is demanding Sh 20 million in legal fees from four of its directors and two senior officials of the Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) over the abortive boardroom coup against its chairman, Chege Kirundi.

The 7,000-plus member firm, through lawyer Kithinji Marete, is seeking to recoup legal costs from the four Kiru Tea Factory directors, KTDA Chief Executive Officer Lerionka Ole Tiampati and Company Secretary John Omanga, who were found guilty of flouting Court of Appeal orders blocking them from engineering Mr Kirundi’s removal.

The six officials have already paid fines amounting to Sh2.4million imposed on them by the Appellate Judges William Ouko, Fatuma Sichale and John Otieno-Odek after they were convicted of acting in contempt of court. Each of them was fined Sh400,000 or to serve seven-month jail-terms in default.

Marete has filed the bill of costs against Tiampati, Omanga, Stephen Githiga, Easton Gakungu, Peter Kinyua and Francis Macharia. The legal costs include instruction fees for Senior Counsel Paul Muite, who argued on behalf of the factory for the six consecutive applications that were filed by the six officials to thwart the contempt proceedings.

 

Mr Chege Kirundi one of the Kiru Tea Factory Ltd directors who filed case against KTDA. PHOTO/FILE

The tenure of the six officials is in limbo since any person can petition the High Court for their removal on grounds that anyone convicted and sentenced to imprisonment beyond six months is disqualified from holding public office.

The three-Judge appellate bench had rejected applications by lawyers Waweru Gatonye, Benson Milimo and Ochieng Oduol to suspend the proceedings for 21 days pending directions from Chief Justice David Maraga. Muite and Marete, for the tea factory, had resisted the postponement and demanded custodial sentences for the directors.

The bench had rejected an application by the six directors to nullify the February 22 decision that found them guilty of willful disobedience of court orders stopping them from interfering with the leadership and management of the tea factory.

In their April 4 ruling, Justices Ouko, Sichale and Otieno-Odek said the rivalry over the leadership of the 7,000-plus member factory in Murang’a County had taken unlawful recourse when there exists legal mechanisms to change directors. Obedience of court orders was paramount and swift punishment was meant to maintain the dignity of courts, they said.

The six officials had flouted sanctions imposed on December 6 and 21, 2017 against KTDA Holdings and KTDA Management Services from conducting any meetings or causing the nomination of directors of the factory pending an appeal challenging the alleged ouster Kirundi and Company Secretary Bernard Kiragu.

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