NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 22 – At least 30 senior officials of the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) and Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) have been arrested by detectives from the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) in an ongoing probe into the importation of poisoned sugar and other contraband goods.
DCI Director George Kinoti told Capital FM News on Saturday that 20 of the officials were arrested in Mombasa and the other 10 in Nairobi.
The arrested officials include KEBS Managing Director Charles Ongwae who has been out on bail since June 25 having denied a murder charge over his role in the importation of 5.8 million kilograms of substandard fertilizer containing mercury.
Ongwae is being held alongside Mombasa seaport health official Pole Mwangemi.
Others KEBS officials arrested are Erick Chesire, Martin Nyakiamo, Erick Onyango, Peter Ndungu, Daniel Kimonge, Roy Mwanthi, Karim Dharamshi, Felix Makau Simon, Bassam Hakem, and Irene Githendu.
KRA officials Kiprono Bullut, David Mbogori, Dorothy Wanja, Michael Juma and Ahmed Dhahir are also in detention and are being interrogated for “willingly permitting the release into the market of a consignment of substandard white rice from Thailand.”
The arrests signalled upped government efforts to seal a projected Sh30 billion annual revenue loss as a result of tax evasion, counterfeiting, and trading of unlicensed goods.
According to Kinoti, the officials will spend the weekend in custody ahead of arraignment in court on Monday as they were still being quizzed at Mazingira House, the criminal bureau’s hub along Kiambu Road, Nairobi.
Other than wilful neglect of duty, the arrested officials will face abuse of office charges.
The arrests came just three weeks after President Uhuru Kenyatta supervised the destruction of illicit goods whose estimated worth was reported at Sh1.5 billion.
The goods which included 149 motor vehicles crushed by bulldozers were destroyed at the East African Portland Cement Grounds in Athi-River, Machakos County, on September 1.
Also destroyed alongside the 149 vehicles worth at least Sh71 million were fake electronics, pharmaceuticals, alcoholic drinks, laboratory equipment, energy saving bulbs, sex toys, expired poisons, and counterfeit cigarettes.
Some 124 50-kilogram bags of sugar and 188 24-kilogram bags of rice were among edibles destroyed which included cooking oil and juices.
A tough-speaking Head of State at the time vowed an unrelenting war on illicit trade while restating his administration’s commitment to fight corruption and economic crimes, vices that have been blamed for the loss of public funds through tax evasion.
He said the war against corruption and illicit trade will not be politicized while giving an assurance that all arrested persons will be subjected to due process.
“All corrupt individuals will go to jail without compromise. But due process of the law will be followed so that those who think they have been wrongly accused can demonstrate their innocence and be vindicated,” said Kenyatta.
The Head of State has established an anti-counterfeit multi-agency crack team under the leadership of Deputy Head of Public Service Wanyama Musiambo who has been leading the campaign against illicit trade.
The team which was set up following concerns by the Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA) in May this year has so far nabbed contraband goods worth over Sh7.4 billion.