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Is rewarding corruption? Taxman lifts suspension barring firm from port

Posted by African Press International on August 4, 2016

GITONGA MARETE -1 | Alhamisi, Agosti 4, 2016

Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) has on Thursday lifted suspension of a logistics company associated with big names in former President Daniel Moi’s regime.

Siginon Freight had been barred from operating at the Mombasa port alongside 14 other firms.

The transport firms were slapped with the suspension after they ferried 104 containers fraudulently cleared from the facility.

KRA said suspension of Siginon Freight Limited was lifted after the company expressed willingness to help in investigations.

“The management of Siginon Freight Limited presented themselves together with the owner of the trucks and they are assisting us with investigations,” the taxman said in a letter signed by Githii Mburu on behalf of Commissioner Investigations and Enforcement.

“Siginon Freight is therefore cleared top conduct normal business within the customs area,” it added.

Speaking to the Nation on phone on Thursday, Siginon Freight managing director Meshack Kipturgo said the company had sold the trucks to another transporter who delayed to transfer the ownership documents.

“We have already provided evidence that we no longer own the trucks, the reason KRA has lifted our suspension,” he said.

Commissioner General John Njiraini said that the 29 trucks that had transferred the containers from the port would be impounded.

However, KRA did not state how many trucks were owned by each of the 14 companies and whether all the 29 trucks had been impounded.

On Tuesday, KRA announced it had unearthed a tax evasion scam at the port involving fraudulent clearance of cargo that had seen the taxman lose over Sh100 million in revenue.

FRAUD SCHEME

Commissioner General John Njiraini said the scheme was discovered when customs officials were reconciling containers meant for auction.

“Initial findings indicate that 104 containers were unprocedurally removed between June and July 2016. The total number of containers cleared by customs for the two months was 40,924 implying that 99.99 per cent of cargo was cleared procedurally,” he said.

“Preliminary findings point to collusion between various players including importers and clearing agents, transport service providers, Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) and KRA staff in cargo clearance,” he added.

Mr Njiraini said while KRA and KPA staff involved in the clearance of the cargo had been suspended, clearing agents and transporters who handled the cargo have been arrested.

The scheme came to light during a recent audit meant to ensure proper accountability for container stocks at the port and facilitate identification of overstayed containers.

It not clear how long cartels have been clearing cargo in this manner, since KRA started auctioning overstayed containers in June this year after nearly a year.

In February this year, KRA announceda 60-day amnesty for importers to clear overstayed cargo that was imported before November 2014.

By the time the amnesty expired on May 12, only 16 containers and 98 vehicles were cleared, with a balance of 1,046 vehicles and 1,159 containers, according to statistics released by KRA.

Only last week, cocaine worth Sh360 million was seized at the port, concealed in bags of sugar imported from Brazil and headed to Uganda.

KRA’s revelation also comes two weeks after police claimed there were tax evasion cartels involving Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) and KRA officials.

Coast regional coordinator Nelson Marwa said the syndicate was going on at the data processing centre at the port.

He said investigations by a multi-agency security team established that the individuals jammed the KRA Simba online system to misdeclare goods passing through the facility.

“This is a sophisticated cartel where the individuals bring in expensive good but declare it as just small cargo,” he said, adding that once tampered with, the system read an “error”, pointing at insiders at the port.

(Editing by Joel Muinde)

End
Nation news Kenya

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