Hundreds of old cars that were being imported on claims that Industrialisation minister Henry Kosgey had cleared them, have been seized at the port of Mombasa. The vehicles, whose figure a source put at 3,000, are more than eight years old and only Mr Kosgey’s written permission can allow them in.
Kenya Revenue Authority ordered the vehicles detained because of documentation queries. It suspected that importers were taking advantage of loopholes in the law, such as those permitting returning Kenyans to come home with their cars.KRA spokesman Kennedy Onyonyi said he doubted that the seized vehicles were 3,000 but confirmed that cars were being held.
“It is true that we have stopped the release of vehicles that are more than eight years, which found their way into the country as a result of inconsistencies. But although I don’t have the correct number of the affected vehicles, the figure you are quoting is way above what our officers are looking at,” he said.
One of the affected importers said the Kenya Bureau of Standards had audited all the exemption letters issued by Mr Kosgey and found that only about 500 are genuine.
Mr Onyonyi said that because of inconsistencies involving the exemptions issued by the Industrialisation ministry, KRA had decided to follow the law which prohibits the clearance of vehicles that are more than eight years old. Early this year, the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission charged 12 people, who included vehicle importers, clearing and forwarding agents, Kebs and KRA employees in connection with a racket in which vehicles of more than eight years were finding their way into the local market.
According to the graft watchdog, the vehicle importation racket resulted in Kenyans paying high prices for the cars believing that they were less than eight years when some were actually 10 to 15 years old. The racketeers targeted top-of-the-range vehicles including Toyota Prados, LandCruisers and Pajeros.
The Nation on Monday saw a letter, purportedly signed by Mr Kosgey, allowing Balpark Trading Company Ltd to import a Toyota Sprinter, which is more than eight years old.Early this year, KRA sent back about five ships with an undisclosed number of vehicles that did not meet local standards.
Attempts to get comments from Mr Kosgey and Industrialisation permanent secretary Karanja Kibicho were unsuccessful as calls to their mobile phones went unanswered.The Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission in September wrote to the AP Commandant Kinuthia Mbugua demanding the immediate suspension of Mr Kosgey’s bodyguard.
The letter said the anti-graft body demanded administrative action be taken against Constable John Mibei Kipng’etich after he was arrested and charged with soliciting a Sh30,000 bribe.