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TMCNet:  Kenya Police Probe Otafiire Over Sugar

[November 20, 2007]

Kenya Police Probe Otafiire Over Sugar

(The Monitor (Uganda) Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge) KENYAN police are investigating a possible link between Maj. Gen. Kahinda Otafiire to a large consignment of sugar currently impounded in Mombasa over tax evasion, but the Local Government minister has denied involvement in the racket.


The huge consignment, worth about Shs 850 million was impounded at Mombasa seaport several months ago after authorities realised its destination papers had been falsified to avoid paying taxes due.

The sugar was imported in Kenya disguised as belonging to Mumias, a major sugar manufacturer in Kenya.

However, Mumias quickly learnt of the scheme and petitioned the port authorities not to clear it pending investigations into the falsification of labels and a possible intent of dumping the sugar on the Ugandan market.

Sources in Nairobi indicate the Kenyan police have enlisted the help of Interpol Uganda to try to track down the owner of the sugar. According to available information, Mumias have gone to court in Mombasa to secure an order against clearing of the sugar. Documents indicated that the product was imported from United Arab Emirates packed in 25 containers, each containing 500 bags of 50 kilogram's each.

If the racket succeeded, said Port CID Chief Mr John Nyanzwii, then the owners would have evaded the 100 per cent duty paid for imported sugar and the import duty due to the Uganda Revenue Authority. The sugar would have appeared to have originated from Kenya.

Sugar imported into the East African Community out of the Common Markets for East and Southern Africa (Comesa) quota attracts 100 per cent duty.

The gunny bags bearing the suspicious sugar did not have the Kenya Bureau of Standards mark and neither did they have batch numbers that come with the Mumias branded bags.

Although police authorities in Mombasa had information that the Sugar belonged to Uganda's local government minister, Maj. Gen. Kahinda Otafiire, he denied the allegations in a phone interview with Daily Monitor last week.

He instead claimed that it belonged to a former employee of his but would not name the employee. "I have never dealt in sugar neither do I import sugar. Period," he said.

But Mr Nyanzwii appealed to Interpole to help them identify the owner. "We have no jurisdiction over Uganda and our request to Interpol is to give us tangible evidence on who the real owner of the counterfeit sugar could be," he told Kenya's Daily Nation last week.

However, the head of Interpol Uganda, Mr Moses Sakira, told Daily last week that they had not received any requests from Kenya on investigations involving sugar.

Mr Nyanzwii said if no one came forward and the investigations yield no fruits, then they may be forced to declare the cargo as "lost and found," he said. "In such cases, we would seek help from the court on how to dispose of the sugar."

The two common scenarios involve either destruction or auctioning.

Mombasa Port Police had initially received a tip off that forged documents were being prepared to get the sugar out of the port area, raising an alarm that the sugar was counterfeit, according to Kenyan press.

"In the forged documents, the owners indicated that the containers were to be transported to Uganda as transit goods thereby evading import duty normally paid for local products," said Mr Nyanzwii. In Uganda, the goods would then appear to be from Kenya, an East African Customs Union member.

Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media. (allafrica.com)

Copyright 2007 The Monitor (Uganda) , Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media , Source: The Financial Times Limited

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