The ongoing sustained war against counterfeits, contraband and illicit trade in the country on Friday went a notch higher when President Uhuru Kenyatta witnessed the destruction of illicit goods worth Shs 1.5 billion including 149 motor vehicles.
Before setting the contraband ablaze and witnessing the crushing of the vehicles, the President sent a strong message that the current war against corruption, impunity, contraband, counterfeits and all forms of economic crimes will not be derailed as he cautioned politicians to stop politicising the crackdown.
The President said he will neither be scared, threatened or side-tracked in his current determination to rid the country of corruption and economic crimes.
He also warned that no corrupt individual will be spared irrespective of their real or perceived seniority in society.
“All corrupt individuals will go to jail without compromise. But due process of the law will be followed so that those who think they have been wrongly accused can demonstrate their innocence and be vindicated,” said the Head of State.
The President told all senior managers in government institutions especially Managing Directors to carry their own crosses whenever nabbed in corrupt dealings and stop passing the buck to junior officers for their misdeeds.
President Kenyatta appealed to the 47 governors across the country to follow his example and rid the counties of corruption.
Besides the cars worth over Shs 71 million , other general merchandise on the destruction list included an array of foodstuff, fake electronics, assorted pharmaceuticals some of which were expired and poisonous, laboratory equipment, motor-vehicle spare parts, construction materials, alcoholic drinks, counterfeit cigarettes, motor-cycle tubes, energy saving bulbs, cables and sex toys all estimated at over Shs165 million.
The foodstuff included 124 bags of sugar in 50 kg bags, 188 bags of rice in 25 kg bags, cooking oil and assorted juices.
To ensure that the items were completely destroyed, the sugar and rice were mixed with coal to facilitate combustion.
Dangerous explosives, toxic acids and fake visa cards used to cheat unsuspecting Kenyans were also among the large pile of mixed merchandise destroyed today.
Today’s torching of the contraband goods and counterfeits is a major victory in the ongoing crackdown on illicit trade which costs the huge sums of money in lost revenue from evaded tax since most of the products are sneaked into the country with the connivance of unethical public servants.
The destruction of the contraband merchandise was done at the East African Portland Cement Grounds in Athi-River, Machakos County.
The destroyed items were nabbed by an inter-agency crack team led by the Deputy Head of Public Service Wanyama Musiambo and comprising of the Police, the Kenya Revenue Authority, the Kenya Bureau of Standards and the Anti Counterfeit Agency among other agencies.
The team was constituted in March this year with an express mandate from the Head of State to deal firmly with the challenge of illicit trade in the country covering contrabands, counterfeits and narcotics among other proscribed items.
So far, the team has been able to nab and destroy contraband goods worth over Sh 7.4 billion.
The team was set up following concerns raised by the Kenya Private Sector Alliance (Kepsa) when they met President Kenyatta during the President’s quarterly round table meeting with the business community at State House Nairobi on May 10.
Counterfeits and contraband goods are among the various economic crimes that continue to undermine Kenya’s socioeconomic transformation by denying the country the much needed revenue through tax evasion as well as threatening the lives and wellbeing of the public through exposure to harmful products.
President Kenyatta said the ultimate goal of the war against contrabands and counterfeits was to save millions of jobs for the youth which are being lost through illegal entry of cheap goods into the country, thereby killing local industries like the Nakuru-based Eveready East Africa company which was manufacturing radio batteries before it was forced to close shop under the weight of cheap imports.
President Kenyatta observed that the war against illegal importation of foodstuff like rice and sugar will help safeguard farmers and local industries from destruction occasioned by cheap and often substandard commodities.
“This must stop. It has come a time when this must end. We cannot continue allowing a few greedy individuals to continue destroying the jobs of our youth and the efforts of our farmers through illicit imports,” he said.
He added: “We shall destroy all illicit goods and deal firmly with all corrupt individuals.”
The Head of State reiterated that for the current war against graft and economic crimes to succeed, those mandated to fight the vice must go for the big fish even as they deal with small thieves.
“A thief is a thief irrespective of their gender or religion,” said the President adding that the Government is keen to tame the vice by going for the masterminds of grand corruption.
Machakos Governor Alfred Mutua and his Kajiado counterpart Joseph Ole Lenku threw their weight behind the President’s fierce war against corruption.
Governor Mutua urged the President not to be detracted by sideshows from those keen to frustrate the current war.