During a parliamentary committee hearing, it was revealed that a suspended Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) officer was bribed to expedite the release of confiscated sugar valued at Sh20 million.
KRA officials who testified before the National Assembly Trade and Investment Committee revealed that according to investigations conducted by the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI), Derrick Kago received Sh130,000 to release the contraband sugar.
It is believed that the money served as an incentive to grant access to a warehouse in Thika where the sugar was being held. Kago allegedly altered the KRA customs seals at the Vine Pack Industries Limited warehouse without obtaining the necessary approval from the authority.
“DCI investigations showed that Derrick was paid about Sh130,000… that is why he was suspended,” said Levi Mukweso, a senior officer at KRA.
Kago is one of the 27 officials who were suspended by President William Ruto in connection with the release of a 20,000-tonne shipment of condemned sugar into the market. This sugar had been imported to the country in 2018, and the Kenya Bureau of Standards had identified it as unsuitable for human consumption, instructing that it should be disposed of.
A multi-agency task force recommended that the condemned sugar be processed into ethanol for industrial purposes. However, it was later diverted from this intended use and released into the consumer market.
Mukweso informed the lawmakers that they became aware of the sugar’s disappearance during the course of the DCI’s inquiry.
Faith Kiara, a chief manager at the KRA, alleged that Kago had concealed his actions by neglecting to submit a report concerning the alteration of customs seals.
“Derrick did not report to us that the seals were broken, an action that requires prior approval and that must be done in the presence of the warehouse owner,” said Kiara, who revealed that Kago was the last person in contact with the go-down in March.
The KRA official had been assigned the task of delivering a tax demand letter to Vine Pack due to unpaid taxes. Vine Pack, the company responsible for distilling the ethanol from the condemned sugar, had received a tax demand of Sh20 million, despite having initially paid only Sh4 million. Additionally, it was revealed that the firm did not possess the necessary license for industrial ethanol distillation.
The committee, finding the explanations provided by the KRA officials unconvincing, argued that Kago was being made a scapegoat in a broader conspiracy that potentially involved high-ranking KRA officials.
“It was a conspiracy right from day one… why didn’t the sugar disappear along the way? Furthermore, when you were opening the seals at the warehouse you excluded other stakeholders,” said Starehe MP Amos Mwago.
“There is no way 20 lorries would have moved undetected.”
The plenary committee is scheduled to further interrogate the KRA officials, along with individuals who are suspected to have played a role in the sugar’s release, on October 17th.