Tax evasion crackdown extends to Mombasa

Four senior revenue officials were arrested after detectives raided the tax-man’s headquarters and other offices at Mombasa port on Monday evening.

The four were arrested as part of the State’s crackdown on tax evasion, money laundering and graft.

Months-long undercover investigations including lifestyle audits and assessment of declared wealth versus known income informed the arrests.

Yesterday’s arrests is a continuation of the purge which started last Friday following major concerns that KRA staff are helping the loss of billions - amid soaring financial needs to repay huge loans borrowed by the country and payment of salaries.

KRA was supposed to help the Government collect Sh1.6 trillion in the year that ends on June 30, as an illustration, but had only managed Sh1 trillion by March 31 in a shortfall occasioned in part by corruption. 

It is the growing frustration with the tax collectors, suspected to be complicit in abetting leakages, and the consequent inability to consistently fall behind set targets that prompted  the crackdown.

Besides KRA headquarters, more detectives were stationed at the port and in various private freight stations.

The arrest caused panic at the tax-man’s offices. Yesterday dozens of KRA officials did not report to work and were believed to be in hiding fearing arrest.

According to witnesses, the detectives raided several offices simultaneously, seizing documents, cellphones, laptops and other electronic gadgets which were also carted away.

Investigations extended

The arrest caught the officials by surprise, coming as they were preparing to leave their offices for the day.

The four suspects were driven to Nairobi at around 5am yesterday under heavy guard.

Sources said that only very few top police officers in Mombasa were privy to the raid and provided back up for the team from Nairobi that included detectives from the Banking Fraud Unit, flying squad and Directorate of Criminal Investigation. 

Urban DCI boss, Anthony Muriithi, confirmed the arrest of the suspects and said police were searching others.

“This is a matter under investigation,” said the DCI boss.

Officials who asked to remain anonymous told The standard more detectives have been deployed to Malindi to track down another seven KRA officials said to have fled after realising they were being sought.

The investigation extended to the Coast following last week’s raid at KRA headquarters in Times Towers, Nairobi.

The court on Monday gave prosecution two weeks to continue holding 38 employees arrested on suspicion of abetting tax evasion and money laundering. The suspects are being held at Central and Kamukunji police stations.

Officials sought

They were arrested on May 10 at KRA’s Domestic Taxes and Customs and Border Control departments.

Another 48 KRA officials, said to be part of the alleged criminal enterprise, are being sought.

The string of arrests has triggered tensions at KRA offices. Yesterday, the authority came out to reassure its officers that the arrests were not a witch hunt.

According to KRA board chairman, Francis Muthaura, the arrests followed ongoing investigations by the authority alongside relevant investigative agencies.

“This should neither be characterised as a personal agenda driven by specific individuals within the Authority nor as a scheme targeting groups of categories of staff,” said Mr Muthaura in a statement.

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