AG Justin Muturi distances himself from condemned sugar saga

Attorney General Justin Muturi responds to questions when he appeared before the Senate Ad-hoc Committee investigating the proliferation of religious organizations in Kenya and the deaths in Shakahola, Kilifi County on May 10th, 2023. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

Attorney General Justin Muturi has distanced himself from the condemned sugar that went missing from a Thika go-down.

In a statement, Muturi says that his office received requests for legal advice from both the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) and the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA).

The requests from DCI were to aid their investigations into offences of felony, and abuse of office among other charges.

KRA wanted legal advice and concurrence on how to dispose of the condemned sugar.

According to Muturi, a letter from KRA to his office shows that the sugar was imported by two companies Merako Investments and Siroco Investments from Zimbabwe Sugar Sales Limited.

Once in the country, the sugar was denied clearance by the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) for failing to meet quality standards condemning it as unfit for human consumption.

Kebs then recommended the release of the sugar for distillation into Industrial ethanol, the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) proposed disposal through biological decomposition at an approved facility.

KRA protested the move saying Kebs proposal was not destruction, they argued the sugar was set to be used as raw materials and should therefore attract full import duties.

Among the proposals by KRA were the sale of sugar in a private treaty, Nema approving the use of the sugar for its turning into ethanol, the sugar sold to the highest bidder and confirmation of its size.

Other proposals were the release of the sugar at times to be under multi-agency supervision, transportation to the bidder’s warehouse to be done using e-sealed trucks and the distillation to take place under the supervision of Kebs and Nema.

Muturi says that his office convened a meeting on January 19, 2023, with leaders from KRA and Kebs to discuss the matter further.

According to the AG, his office gave its legal opinion to both KRA and Kebs advising that the method that will be used to destroy the sugar be within the law.

Muturi says that he supported KRA’s decision to subject the sugar to import duty since it was allowed into the country for alternative use as a raw material to manufacture ethanol.

“Further, it was also recommended, without prejudice to the Commissioner’s discretion under section 43 (7) of the EACCMA, that where the ownership of the sugar is clearly identifiable and undisputed, KRA may consider affording such owner the first priority to clear the import duty, in lieu of disposing of the same through private treaty,” read the statement in part.

The AG also advised that in the event there were no such powers identified or the ownership was disputed then KRA may dispose of the sugar in a private treaty since it was under its care.

Muturi says that he advised KRA and Kebs to work together going forward by developing a framework to provide for the disposal of prohibited or condemned goods which may be subject to import duty payment to be released for alternative use.

This he said should be done under the supervision of a multiagency team.