Puzzle of how 20,000 bags of 'poisonous' sugar seized by KEBS disappeared from go-down
The Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) and a multi-agency team has warned that Kenyans could be consuming poisonous sugar straight off the shelves.
Investigations by the security agencies say that brown sugar packed in 20,000, 50-kilogram bags was imported into the country in June 2018 by Merako Investments Limited from Harare, Zimbabwe.
Upon docking at the Port of Mombasa, the sugar was processed by Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) officials and proven to be non-compliant with Kenyan quality standards and condemned.
KEBS guidelines say that goods that do not conform to local quality standards should not be permitted into the country and should be re-shipped, returned or destroyed at the expense of the importer.
After KEBS condemned the sugar, the commodities were taken to a warehouse in Makongeni, Thika where it's suspected that they were stored for the last four years.
However in December 2022, KEBS Managing Director Benard Njiraini wrote to KRA's Commissioner General saying that the standards agency had received a request from the Assets and Cargo LTD to convert the condemned brown sugar into ethanol through distillation.
Njiriani's letter was copied to Trade CS Moses Kuria and Head of Public Service Felix Kosgey. The letter was received by the KRA boss five days later.
The KEBS MD also told the Commissioner General that the standard act ideally provides that non-compliant goods be shipped back or destroyed at the owners cost.
He went further to note that KEBS had reviewed the process for destruction of the condemned sugar consignment and approved in principle its destruction into ethanol via distillation from approved manufacturers.
Until this month KRA had not taken any action, but on April 29, Faith Kiara on behalf of the Commissioner Intelligence Strategic Operations Investigations and Enforcement, wrote a letter to release the condemned sugar on the condition that pending taxes be paid 30 days after the consignment's release.
After the two government agencies processed the release of the consignment, KEBS sent its inspection officer to Thika on May 4 to join the multi-agency team officers and the DCI who were to open the warehouse forcefully to confirm whether the consignment was still in place.
Upon arrival at the godown, the team found that it was empty despite the existence of KRA seals on the locks of the warehouse.
Pointing to possibilities that the sugar had already hit the market and could be on shelves for sale, DCI has since launched investigations and is also searching for the consignment as it pursues KEBS bosses over the whereabouts of the condemned sugar that was meant to be destroyed.
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