Irene Githinji and Judy Akuma @PeopleDailyKe
Prominent politicians have been implicated in the flooding into the local market of imported cheap sugar said to be laced with harmful chemicals.
An analysis of at least 1,365 bags of contraband sugar seized recently shows it was laced with toxic metals—copper and mercury—that unsuspecting consumers may have been exposed to with dire health implications.
And as the government made the startling revelations, the name of a prominent Women’s Representative from Central region was mentioned, and could be “powerful hand” behind the importation of the poisoned sugar impounded in Ruiru.
Interior Cabinet secretary, Fred Matiang’i declared an-all-out war on illicit goods, and to stress the seriousness of the operation, issued a stern warning to senior public officials, politicians and businessmen involved in the business, who he said were trying to intimidate officers involved in the crackdown.
A visibly enraged Matiang’i said it was unacceptable that influential and unscrupulous businessmen have been making threatening phone calls to the Directorate of Criminal Investigation (DCI) officers over the ongoing operation.
The CS challenged the said businessmen to instead direct their phone calls to President Uhuru Kenyatta, tell him their concerns and let investigating officers do their work.
Matiang’i was firm that they had clear instructions from the President to deal with the contraband goods menace once and for all. He was categorical they would proceed without fear or favour.
His remarks come just a month after the President issued a directive for an operation to deal with economic crimes.
And as the war on counterfeits intensifies, Matiang’i was categorical that it should not be confused with political witch-hunt, adding that together with DCI, they will do a thorough work.
“I am shocked over what we are doing to our country. The level of criminality involved is mind-boggling. There are people who are making money through injurious goods. We will not be polite on those selling poison to Kenyans,” charged Matiang’i.
“This is a different ball game. To those threatening others, we want them to know we are not deluded, we are in serious war—a war that could mean anything, including the lives of some police officers and some of us and we are ready.”
He was concerned that some people were sabotaging the country’s economy through crime. The CS further castigated Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) and Anti-Counterfeit Agency and Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) for “sleeping on the job” and allowing the illegal trade to thrive.
“We have not seen anything yet, it will be tough, put on the safety belt because time has come to end this business. There are many other opportunities to make a clean living.”
He said the government would go for those engaged in the illicit business and several sting operations loomed.
And as Matiang’i breathed fire, Kebs refuted claims in a section of the media that it makes fake standardisation marks. Chairman Mugambi Imanyara assured Kenyans its products certification scheme enforcement regimes were above board and secured to protect consumers.
He, however, said following the allegations, the board had instituted investigations to check on the import standardisation mark stickers and the outcome of the investigations would determine the next course of action.
Kebs managing director (MD) Charles Ongwae said the allegations against it were being taken seriously and the instituted investigations will ascertain whether the claims against them are true or not.
He disclosed that the standardisation marks were highly protected and only one person was authorised to access the area where the stickers were printed hence it was unlikely that Kebs was printing fake stickers.
The contraband sugar was seized in warehouses in Ruiru, Eastleigh and at Industrial Area. Also impounded were machines used for repackaging illegally imported sugar.