Security agents in Western are alarmed by huge volumes of contraband goods being smuggled into Kenya through porous Busia border.
According to Western Regional Commissioner Irungu Macharia, the East Africa Common Market Protocol which came into force in July 2010 could be contributing to the illicit trade along the border.
The protocol allows for the free movement of goods, persons, services, labour and capital while guaranteeing rights to residence and establishment.
On Monday, police in Kakamega County impounded contraband cigarettes worth Sh8.7 million and at least 40 bags of poultry feed worth Sh26,000 smuggled into the area from Uganda according to Irungu. The officers also managed to arrest one suspect.
Mr Macharia said the Customs Union Protocol by the East African Community advocating for the removal of all existing non-tariff barriers to trade and restricting the imposing of new barriers encourage the smuggling of contraband goods into the country.
He added: “Most traders, especially those from Uganda, have taken advantage of the free trade protocol to smuggle fake products into our region.”
Macharia regretted that most of the goods finding their way into the country are never taxed as expected as unscrupulous traders have devised means of smuggling them into Kenya.
“We have arrested people mostly traders and confiscated their products because they evaded paying taxes while smuggling goods into the country through the porous borders,” said Macharia.
The administrator said they have scaled up a multi-agency and border surveillance team in areas that are prone to smuggling of goods into the country.
“We cannot change the nature of the porous borders but what we have done is to deploy more security officers in those areas to intensify surveillance besides beefing up inspection at customs border and strictly adhering to Kenyan trade rules, that is why people have seen many arrests pertaining fake and smuggled products and traders evading taxes,” said Macharia.
He said they have enlisted some residents to serve as good ambassadors in areas prone to smuggling of illegal products.
“Most of the arrests that happen are through tip-offs from residents and we are working closely with communities and people whom we have identified in areas likely to experience illegal, fake, and smuggled products and evasion of taxes,” said Macharia.
Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) in the region has raised complaints of tax evasion from traders taking advantage of gaps in East African free trade arrangements to engage in illicit trade through porous borders.
On Monday a multi-agency and surveillance team led by Kakamega Central OCPD Valerian Obore intercepted fake cigarettes in 350 boxes worth and 40 bags of poultry feeds in a home at Shivembe village in Lurambi Constituency.
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According to Obore, they received a tip-off from the residents who spotted one of the residents offloading ‘suspect’ products from a lorry.
“We were called by one of our informers who indicated that suspected products were being offloaded and being stored in a resident’s house and our officers acted swiftly and they were able to seize the lorry and recover the products,” said Obore.
“We found cigarettes branded Super match packed in 350 boxes, 5, 000 cigarette stickers from Kenya Bureau of Standards (KBS) and poultry feeds. We also managed to arrest the driver of the lorry and we have launched a manhunt for his accomplices,” said Obore.
On September 3 last month, police officers in Busia County impounded bhang worth Sh 18 million while being transported in a hearse van.
Maxwell Nyaema, the Busia County Police Commander, said the illicit drugs were smuggled into the country from Uganda on motorcycles and pro-box vehicles.
Two months ago, police in Nambale confiscated two boxes of bhang valued at Sh1 million that were being transported by a Nairobi–bound lorry.