Kenya turning into a conduit for ‘stolen British luxury cars’

A Range Rover concealed under mattresses is pulled out of a Kenya-bound cargo container. [PHOTO:FILE/STANDARD]
The Port of Mombasa is fast turning into a conduit for stolen British cars, according to an article in one of Europe’s leading publications.

The Economist, a British weekly magazine, claims that about 79,000 stolen British cars found their way through the ports of Mombasa, Boma in Congo and Dar es Salaam in Tanzania in 2015, and headed to Uganda and Oman where they were sold.

This has raised a storm in Britain with the country’s security authorities launching sting operations to track the movement of the vehicles and locate their market.

In The Economist article, a detective with Britain’s National Vehicle Crime Intelligence Service, a British police unit set up to combat organised vehicle crime and the use of vehicles in crime, notes that these vehicles were stolen from Britain in the year to September 2015.

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The detective, a Mr Nathan Ricketts, exudes confidence that around 40 per cent of the stolen vehicles will eventually be recovered.

“Mr Ricketts found a stash of 28 high-end British vehicles in Kampala last year (2015) after tracking one via Oman and Kenya,” said the article. It is not clear how many of the 79,000 stolen vehicles passed through the Port of Mombasa.

The Standard tried to reach the British police unit through their official mail but we got no response. It’s not clear whether or not some of those vehicles got into the Kenyan market. The Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA), while not confirming whether or not these claims are true, noted that they have since dealt with a similar matter, only in the taxman’s opinion, the culprits’ objective was tax evasion.

“Through high-risk profiling, the KRA in March smashed a tax-evasion racket perpetrated by unscrupulous businessmen involving importation of high-value motor vehicles declared as personal effects and household goods. They are now under investigation to establish whether the cars are legally imported,” said KRA Commissioner, Customs & Border Control, Julius Musyoka. In March, KRA intercepted containers loaded with three top cars disguised as baby toys at the Port of Mombasa. The container had three posh vehicles worth Sh28 million said to have been sneaked in from, among other European countries, Britain.

“The vehicles were concealed in a cargo container, loaded with baby walkers and used mattresses, earlier shipped from the United Kingdom.

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“This, would have caused the Government to lose Sh8.5 million in tax revenue had the hawk-eyed KRA officials, who scanned the 40ft container number: MRKU2024181, failed to spot the carefully concealed cargo,” said Mr Musyoka then.

QUESTIONS RAISED

When asked how prevalent this racket is, Musyoka said that until investigations were completed, it was not possible to tell how widespread the crime was.

Last year, there were reports that in the first three months of 2015, vehicles worth about £100 million (Sh14.6 billion) were stolen in the UK with Uganda as one of the markets for these cars.

The allegations by British officials that stolen British vehicles find their way to the Port Mombasa raises questions on the integrity or effectiveness of customs officials who are accused of aiding and abetting the illicit trade.

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The taxman says it’s upping its game by clamping down on such rogue importers who are using the port to bring in stolen goods.

“KRA is liaising with relevant agencies such as Interpol, the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) and Regional Intelligence Liaisons Office to establish how the vehicles were brought into the Port of Mombasa and whether the cars are legally imported,” said Musyoka.

He added that investigations on those found bringing in stolen cars were ongoing and anybody found guilty would be charged.

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