Directorate of Criminal Investigations headquarters along Kiambu Road, Kiambu/ Twitter photo.
NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 21 – The Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) has called for the suspension of two Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) managers over a suspected container smuggling racket at the port of Mombasa.
DCI says the two managers should temporarily be removed from office as investigations of the container smuggling continue.
Police say the two managers who include KPA’s general manager of port operations, Sudi Mwasinago, and the acting principal officer for ship operations, Evans Akunava, could interfere with the ongoing probe of the racket involving the release of containers through a manual system, which allows for cargo to exit the port without taxes paid.
“There exist potential risks that the suspects will interfere with crucial forensic evidence and their continued stay in office will be highly prejudicial to the investigation,” said John Gachomo, head of Investigations Bureau at DCI, in the letter to Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani.
Ongoing investigations indicate that containers which are expected to be cleared through an online system dubbed Kilindini Waterfront Automation System (Kwatos), are cleared manually and later fed into the Kwatos system to indicate they remain within the KPA premises.
Investigations come as widespread allegations of officials of the port and other government agencies colluding with rogue importers and exporters in a smuggling racket continue to rock the port of Mombasa.
The police has since September been probing data captured on the Kwatos portal and all containers that arrived at the Mombasa port from February 2021, seeking ownership documents of all containers and amounts paid in taxes to the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA).
“It is evident there exists deliberate illegal activities of container smuggling and tax evasion executed by port managers in cahoots with importers and owners of container freight stations,” said Gachomo.
Since the probe started, police say that the movement of containers from the port via the standard gauge railway (SGR) has increased, signalling missing containers.
Containers at Kenya’s Port of Mombasa/ KPA website.
The government has been keen in clamping down on cartel networks blamed for the inefficiency in the clearance of cargo that has seen the country lose millions of revenue in taxes.
The Port of Mombasa handled 9.54 million tons in the first quarter of the year 2021 compared to 8.62 million tons in a similar period last year recording 10.7 percent growth rate.
During the period under review (January to March 2021), the Port also witnessed increased volumes in container traffic registering 389,515 TEUs against 340,812 TEUs recorded in a similar period in 2020. Transshipment traffic recorded 69,658 TEUs against 41,363 TEUs during the corresponding period in 2020.
The month of March 2021 boosted the Port of Mombasa’s performance registering a marked growth in both conventional and containerized cargo. A total of 3.48 million tons were recorded in the month of March 2021 against 2.71 million tons realized in the corresponding month in 2020, representing a positive performance of 768,453 tons or 28.4 percent increase.
KPA says performance was mainly attributed to increase in handling of Wheat and Clinker cargo within the month compared to the same period in 2020.
According to the Authority, the month of February 2021 has been captured as the highest performer ever in terms of daily average container throughput traffic with 4,662 TEUs beating the record daily average throughput of 4,279 TEUs recorded in July 2019.
“The month of March 2021 has also gone on record as the highest ever with 25,104 TEUs which is an average of 8.32 trains per day beating the daily record average of 8.1 trains recorded in February 2021,” KPA said in a statement.