Global telecommunications company Nokia Corporation has gone to high court to stop private prosecution of its top executives for obtaining tax information from an unauthorized Kenyan technology company.
The telecommunications company says its reputation and image as an information technology company is at stake and seeks charges brought by TechnoService Ltd to be dismissed.
TechnoService reckons that Nokia obtained the tax records from the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) and used the information in a case that was pending before the International Court of Arbitration pitting the two firms.
It was allowed to privately prosecute the multinational company together with its officials and lawyers, prompting a Kenya magistrate court to issue summons to former CEO and a top executive of Nokia Corporation.
Nokia and the executives have failed to honour the summons and instead it has moved to the High Court for dismissal of TechnoService prosecution in a suit that sets the stage for a diplomatic spat.
“Considering its international repute as a well-known multinational telecommunication and information technology company, it would be imperative that the orders of stay are issued to prevent the further perpetuation of abuse of the process of court,” says Nokia in a petition before the High Court.
Milimani Senior resident magistrate David Ndugi has issued several summons against Rajee Suri, who was CEO of Nokia until last July and Aapo Saariviti as well as the firm’s lawyers– Roschier Attorneys LTS– to appear in court virtually and plead to several charges related to TechnoService’s tax records.
The Kenyan company wants officials of Nokia to face 11 charges, including conspiracy to fabricate evidence, conspiracy to defeat justice, making a false document and uttering a false document.
TechnoService alleged that Nokia obtained the information for purposes of defeating justice in the arbitration proceedings.
Nokia has challenged the claims, saying the filings were defective and that they were foreigners and, therefore, required to be served by diplomatic means. Through Evans Monari, Nokia says the criminal prosecution is meant to coerce its bosses and give the Kenyan company an unfair advantage in the pending cases.
He said TechnoService has filed several cases touching on the same matters, arguing the suit contents had been raised before the ICC arbitration.
Nokia further says no investigation has been carried on the allegations and requiring them to appear virtually before Kenya’s magistrate court is an abuse of the court process.
“It is imperative that the chamber summons application be admitted to hearing on a priority basis and the orders sought are granted on the interim basis to restrain the further abuse of the process of this court,” Mr Monari said.
A Milimani court had directed them to appear virtually last month but the Nokia executives pleaded for more time before rushing to the High Court seeking to quash the charges.
In an affidavit, Mr Saarikivi says despite the fact that the application was without basis, the magistrate allowed TechnoService to commence private prosecution against them.