Metal dealers demand tougher penalties for scrap smuggling

Dealers call for stricter penalties to combat scrap metal smuggling. [Standard, File]

 Metal dealers are calling for stricter penalties in the fight against scrap metal smuggling.

The Scrap Metal Council, under the State Department of Industry and Trade, has criticised the Judiciary for “derailing” the war against this illicit trade.

Francis Mugo, the Council Chairman, 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.

Mugo expressed his frustration at the courts’ decision to fine Peter Ngaire a mere Sh30,000. Ngaire was arrested last weekend while transporting scrap batteries to Tanzania along the Voi border.

Ngaire, who pleaded guilty to the charges before Voi Law Court Senior Principal Magistrate Cecilia Githinji, was charged on 26 May this year with the offence of exporting scrap batteries without a licence.

“The law prescribes that when anyone commits a crime in relation to scrap metal, he or she is fined Sh1 million. How, then, can the courts charge someone Sh30,000?” Mugo argued.

 “We call on the Chief Justice to look into these cases of scrap metal smuggling and advise. We as the Council feel our efforts are being frustrated,” he added.

According to the Scrap Metal Act, 2022, any person who contravenes this section of the law commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding one million shillings or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years or to both.

Mugo stressed that transporting scrap metal at night is against the law and argued that the courts’ lenient fines have allowed the illegal trade to thrive.

However, Voi Sub-County Commander Ibrahim Dafalla assured the Council of compliance with the law, stating that the owner of the seized scrap batteries will be fined the relevant amount as stipulated in law.

“Police have completed investigations into the matter and we have handed over the file to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) for further directions. The driver will be charged on Monday once the ODPP recommends the relevant charges,” Dafalla confirmed.

Scrap metal smuggling in the country has been facilitated by porous borders in areas such as Busia, Namanga, Taveta, and Lunga Lunga, which unscrupulous traders use to access markets in Uganda and Tanzania.

In response to this, the Council suspended the issuance and renewal of licences for scrap metal dealers last week. This decision was informed by increased cases of vandalism of public infrastructure nationwide.

Mugo commended the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) for its sustained efforts against the smugglers, revealing that 50 trailers smuggling scrap metal had been intercepted by the taxman this year alone.

He urged licensed scrap metal dealers to operate within the law when exporting their goods and 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 stated.

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