A document by the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) has revealed how some
companies violated regulations to import narcotic drugs into the
country disguised as sugar. The document, presented to the joint
sitting of National Assembly’s Agriculture and Trade committees that
have been investigating contraband sugar in the country, also states
that the government lost about Sh36.5 billion in duty and Value Added
Tax (VAT) exemptions on the sugar imported between May and December
2017. That included Sh31.5 billion in import duty and Sh5.03 billion
in VAT. The two committees, co-chaired by Kieni MP Kanini Kega and his
Mandera South colleague Adan Ali, are expected to table their
preliminary report Thursday afternoon. The committee has been sitting
for the last five days and has met a number of witnesses, among them
Cabinet Secretaries Henry Rotich (Treasury), Fred Matiang’i
(Interior), Adan Mohamed (Industry and Trade) and Mwangi Kiunjuri
(Agriculture). The committee sat for six days to investigate fears
that the sugar in the market is unsuitable for human consumption as it
is laced with foreign materials, including heavy metals like mercury.
On Tuesday, KRA Commissioner-General John Njiraini told the lawmakers
that in July 2016, a verification conducted by government agencies on
one of the containers imported by Mshale Commodities Ltd — a company
registered in Uganda — revealed that substances believed to be
narcotic drugs were concealed in the bags of sugar. “The verification
led by anti- narcotics police unit found four unsealed polypropylene
bags concealed within the bags of sugar with a substance packaged in
block shape suspected to be narcotic drugs,” Mr Njiraini says in the
report presented to the MPs. He added: “The four bags yielded 90
blocks of the item and the marks on the blocks of the substance read
‘Lacoste’.” Other than the Ugandan company, there is also Mshale
Commodities Ltd, Mombasa, which is registered in Kenya. According to
the KRA report, the 90 blocks suspected to be narcotics were marked as
exhibits and packed in evidence bags and detained by the
Anti-Narcotics Police Unit and that all the four containers were
secured. The latest revelations by KRA could further compound fears of
the sugar in circulation. On May 12 last year, National Treasury CS
Henry Rotich issued a gazette notice that allowed the importation of
duty free sugar following a prolonged drought in sugarcane growing
areas. The notice No.4536 did not, however, specify the quality and
the quantity of the sugar to be imported thereby permitting the entry
of raw sugar which is unfit for human consumption, white sugar and
industrial sugar duty free. If Mr Rotich would have been specific in
terms of the quality of sugar to be imported and by who, it would have
saved the country the billions of shillings lost in taxes and the
accompanying health risks on Kenyans.

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