Even before the storm surrounding alleged contaminated sugar subsides, detectives have impounded a staggering one million bags of toxic rice in Mombasa County.
And that is not all. The investigators have also confiscated more than 400 containers of cooking oil which, they say, do not meet required standards.
A team of detectives working on a report compiled by Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM) and Government agencies, including National Intelligence Service (NIS), seized the goods last month.
According to the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI), the rice, originally from Pakistan, had been condemned as unfit for human consumption but somehow found its way into Kenya. The consignment was past the expiry date by three years.
In addition, the Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) refused to clear more than 400 containers of 20kg jerricans of cooking oil from Malaysia.
Yesterday, Director of Criminal Investigations George Kinoti said rogue importers were printing new bags that were transported to the high seas and used to repackage the contaminated rice.
“Yes, it’s true we have impounded about one million bags of rice stored in some warehouses in Mombasa. We believe some of the toxic rice may have been sneaked into the market,” Mr Kinoti said.
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The DCI said the cartel, working with customs officials, facilitated entry of the contraband rice.
“They print new bags with fresh expiry dates then repackage the rice ready for entry through the port. Some of the rice had been condemned about three years ago as unfit for human consumption,” he added.
The Palm Oil Refiners Association of Malaysia (Poram) has already petitioned its government to intervene and have the oil shipped back to Malaysia.
In a letter dated July 10, 2018, Poram Chief Executive Officer Teoh Beng Chuan said the oil was impounded as it did not have 20mg/kg of vitamin A as required.
“We have further been informed that the exporters’ request to take ownership of the cargo and re-ship it to another destination has also been denied. Meanwhile, the containers continue to remain in the port yard incurring additional storage charges beyond the 14 days free period allowed,” Mr Chuan said.
The letter to Malaysia’s Deputy Secretary General (Trade), Ministry of International Trade and Industry adds: “We therefore seek your kind assistance to have Kenyan authorities to resolve this impasse urgently as it affects the image of Malaysian palm oil industry in addition to the cost involved if its further delayed."
This came as reports indicated KAM and NIS had collected intelligence that could lead to major changes at Kebs, Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) and Kenya Ports Authority (KPA).
The report, already shared with President Uhuru Kenyatta, implicates the agencies in corruption, according to those who have seen it.
It details incidents where port officials allowed in sub-standard goods, under-valued the goods and failed to even inspect most containers, leading to major losses.
Sources say officials from the agencies are likely to be charged in court this week after the Director of Public Prosecutions approved their prosecution.
Besides the Mombasa port, the team is expanding its probe to other major entry points.
Three months ago, rice and expired spaghetti valued at Sh250 million was destroyed after it was declared unfit for human consumption.
Kebs said the food, contained in 163 containers, underwent thorough screening before being declared sub-standard.
Kebs and KRA have imposed new rules that require all goods destined for Kenya be verified at source. The inspecting agency will also determine the duty to be paid by the manufacturer.
This was part of the Government’s efforts to tighten the noose on tax evaders who under-declare the true cost of goods.
Inspection agency fees are pegged on a percentage of the total value of goods and the same is sent to Kenya via the Internet to enable KRA to charge the correct duty.
Kinoti said their investigation dated back to January and showed that Kenya had lost taxes amounting to Sh100 billion through tax evasion and importation of contraband goods.
On Friday, eight Government officials working at the port were charged at the Chief Magistrate’s Court in Mombasa over the release of 10,000 bags of sub-standard brown sugar.
They included the inspection manager and inspection officer at Kebs and Kilindini Port respectively.
And last Monday, both KRA and DCI restated their commitment to deepening collaboration in combating tax evasion and corruption.
“The collaboration focuses on varied aspects including the management of customs clearance operations and the tackling of illicit trade, and both importation and local manufacturer level.
“In this regard, the DCI and KRA wish to announce the arraignment in court of three Kenya Ports Authority officials and one KRA official on charges of concealment and improper declaration of goods imported through the Port of Mombasa, contrary to Section 202(a) of the East African Community Act 2004,” said the statement.
The suspects were charged with concealing imported goods worth over Sh6 million. According to the charge sheet, the accused on diverse dates between July 3 and August 4, 2018 concealed goods at a KPA shed at the Embakasi Inland Depot in Nairobi, intending to remove them without following prescribed processes.
A team of detectives from the DCI headquarters arrived in Mombasa last week to extend the probe after visiting the KRA headquarters and the Inland Container Depot.
In Mombasa, they have interrogated a number of staff and studied how cargo arrives, is inspected and released.