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Kebs boss, nine others held over toxic sugar

Reports say police grilling them on the poisonous sugar that has been seized in raids across the country and issues touching on Kebs sticker marks

Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) managing director Charles Ongwae and nine other senior officials were Friday arrested over the contraband sugar saga.

Ongwae, alongside Kebs Quality Assurance boss Eric Chesire, Chief Manager Inspection Eric Ochieng and seven others were taken to the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) headquarters for questioning.

The nine were expected to record statements over their involvement in the matter even as the country awaits changes in the points of entry.

Ongwae’s arrest comes barely hours after the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Noordin Haji accused Kebs of failing to adhere to acceptable standards before allowing sugar into the country.

Appearing before the National Assembly’s Justice and Legal Affairs Committee on Thursday, Haji announced the net was closing in on all those responsible for the importation of illegal sugar.

But on Thursday while appearing separately before the Trade, Industry, and Cooperatives committee, Ongwae said that the contraband sugar did not have mercury but admitted that it had high contents levels of copper and lead.

While the copper limit in sugar is two miligrammes per kilogramme, the amount of copper in the seized sugar was 20.7milligrammmes, 10 times higher.

Ongwae further said that the sugar seized in a number of locations was not fit for human consumption, and that heavy machinery tests comprising lead, cadmium, copper and arsenic tests had found no traces of the mercury in the seized consignment.

Following the move, Ongwae said that he was not aware of where Interior Cabinet secretary Fred Matiang’i got the results showing the alleged dirty sugar that had mercury in it.

But even as more arrests loom, four Cabinet secretaries are set to appear before a joint House team that is probing the issue of contraband sugar seized across the country.

Matiang’ i, Mwangi Kiunjuri (Agriculture), Adan Mohammed (Trade and Industry) and Henry Rotich (Treasury) are expected to shed light on just how the contaminated sugar found its way into the country.

The joint departmental committees of agriculture and trade assured Kenyans investigations into the matter would be concluded within one week and a report tabled in the national assembly for debate.

Said Kega: “We will within one week give Kenyans a report that they have been yearning for on whether the sugar they have been taking is safe for consumption or not.”

Matiang’i is expected to shed light on where he got information that the sugar is contaminated with mercury while Kiunjuri and Mohamed are expected to shed light on what they know about the illegal sugar as well as how it found its entry into the country.

Rotich will explain to the committee the exact sugar companies exempted from paying duty and the tonnage they are supposed to ship in.

The two committees will also meet Leader of Majority in the National Assembly Aden Duale  and Samburu West MP Naisula Lesuuda.

Daule is supposed to shed light on the list of companies he tabled in the National Assembly on Wednesday while Lesuuda  should give more details about her statement on the matter that prompted the House to commence investigations into the scandal.

The others expected to appear before the committee include heads of companies alleged to have been involved in the importation including Jaswinder Rai, the owner of Rai Industries and Diamond Wholesalers.

The committee is also expected to make a field visit on Tuesday and Wednesday to Mombasa, Nakuru, Eldoret and DCI headquarters, where the sugar is stored.

          – MErcy MwAi

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