Scrap Metal Council raises alarm over smuggling

Scrap Metal Council Chairman Francis Mugo.[Standard, File]

The Scrap Metal Council, under the Ministry of Industry, has expressed concern following the release of intercepted scrap metal at the Namanga border point.

This coming days after the authority suspended the issuance and renewal of licences.

Francis Mugo, the Council Chairman, said the court’s release of the scrap metal and the Kenya Revenue Authority’s (KRA) failure to apply for forfeiture or destruction of the goods were among the loopholes a smuggling syndicate was exploiting.

 The actions, he said, are undermining the fight against smuggling at border entry points.

The move follows the release of a truck, registration number KDG 039X, loaded with scrap batteries along the Tanzania-Kenya border. The owner managed to avoid jail time.

Despite the driver of the truck, Peter Ngaire, pleading guilty to the offence of exporting scrap batteries without a licence before Voi Law Court Senior Principal Magistrate Cecilia Githinji on 26 May this year, the truck was released along with the cargo.

The magistrate ruled that the suspect pays a fine of Sh30,000 or serve a sentence of two months.

Mugo is now questioning why the truck was released. He revealed that officials mandated to seek the forfeiture of the scrap metal did not appear in court nor seek orders to have the scrap metal forfeited to the state for destruction.

“It’s very unfortunate that despite the sustained efforts by the multi-sectoral team to curb the smuggling of scrap metal, there are those who continue to aid this wrongdoing at the expense of our critical infrastructure,” Mugo said.

Last week, metal dealers under the Council called for stricter penalties in the fight against scrap metal smuggling. They criticised the Judiciary for “derailing” the war against this illicit trade.

Mugo accused the courts of undermining their efforts to combat vandals responsible for the destruction of critical infrastructure worth millions of shillings across the country.

 He argued that the courts’ lenient fines have failed to deter these criminals.

In an attempt to restore sanity in the scrap metal trade, the Council suspended the issuance and renewal of licences for scrap metal dealers three weeks ago.

This decision, the council said,  was informed by increased cases of vandalism of public infrastructure nationwide.

Mugo urged licensed scrap metal dealers to operate within the law when exporting their goods.

He noted that the Council is engaging various stakeholders to ensure that the vice is completely eradicated.

 "One of the challenges the Council is facing is the limitation to hire its staff. The Council gets secretariat services from the State Department for Industry and so we cannot effectively vet scrap metal dealers as there are no inspectors gazetted due to the shortage of staff deployed to the Council,” he explained.

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