Warehouse owner's tribulations on disappearance of condemned sugar

Some of the contaminated sugar that was destroyed in 2018. [File, Standard]

The owner of Vinepack Industries go-down where 1 million kilograms of condemned sugar disappeared earlier this year yesterday gave a blow-blow account of the incident, further deepening the mystery of the disappearance of the consignment.

Appearing before the Trade and Industry Committee, Peter Mwangi revealed how he collapsed upon realisation that the 20,000 bags of condemned sugar had disappeared and the subsequent torture he underwent shortly after arrest by Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) officers.

He explained that on the fateful day he was having tea at Blue Post Hotel Thika when he received a call from a lady who identified herself as Faith Kihara from Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA). mWANGI was then asked to proceed to the go-down where he was required to open the KRA seals so they could check on sugar.

“I remember getting there and seeing three Subaru cars packed close to the go-down but I was not bothered by their presence and proceeded. On opening the go-down I was shocked to find it empty. I immediately collapsed but upon regaining consciousness , I found myself handcuffed and the nerves to my left hand cuff. To date, I am still seeking treatment for my hand ,” he said.

The committee heard that after his arrest, the warehouse owner was moved to Mombasa where he was allegedly detained incommunicado for 72 hours, tortured and denied access to the washrooms.

“I was taken to Mombasa where I was thoroughly beaten, denied food for three days and later released on Sh100,000 bond,” he claimed.

He is now facing charges of being behind the theft of the sugar consignment but insists that KRA is best placed to shed light on the matter.

The Embakasi North James Gakuya-led committee however pressed Mwangi to explain how the sugar disappeared without his knowledge and whether security had been provided for the consignment.

“You want to tell this committee that 40 containers of sugar were loaded onto trailers from your go-down and no one,  even the security guards present alerted you?” Posed Mr Gakuya.

“Loading that number of containers is not something that can be done within an hour and could take a whole day so somebody must have seen something,” added the chairman.

In his defense, Mwangi explained that he only learnt that the consignment had been stolen between the night of Saturday April 29 and morning of Sunday April 30 after he was arrested. Notably, the sugar had been offloaded at the go-down on April 21.

“What is suspicious is that the CCTV cameras that were mounted in the facility had been removed and interestingly, the six guards who were manning the consignment mysteriously disappeared and have not been traced to date,” he said.

“What baffled me was that despite the consignment having disappeared, there were still genuine KRA seals on the doors.”

The committee was dissatisfied with his response and further probed how sugar -which was delivered by a multi-agency team involving the Kenya Bureau of Standards and KRA – quickly disappeared without a trace.

“So what you are telling us is that you did not have control of your go-down? There were also other go-downs in the area being guarded by other officers and I am struggling to understand what why they did not alert you when the emptying of yours was going down,” said Gakuya.

Mwangi however told the committee that he had nothing to do with the heist saying he has continued to suffer since the event.

“My bank accounts have been frozen and I am now being sued by KRA. I have also been forced to fire all of my employees. I am going through hell…,” he said.

The committee has summoned Mwangi on July 11, a day after KRA and Asset & Cargo Company- a stakeholder- give their side of the story.

The committee is investigating how the condemned sugar that was to be converted into industrial ethanol disappeared.

When Kebs appeared before the committee, it shifted blame to KRA and in what is snowballing into an inter-agency war, Kebs moved to absolve itself from blame, saying that the condemned sugar was under the supervision of the taxman- at the Vinepack Industries warehouse in Thika- before it disappeared.

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