Govt probes Sh100m impounded ivory

The government has launched investigations into the recovery of 638 pieces of ivory valued at nearly Sh100 million impounded at the Port of Mombasa on Tuesday.

The consignment, weighing two tonnes, was intercepted at the container verification area of the port by Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) officials after receiving a tip off from Nairobi's head office.

Head of Civil Service Francis Kimemia said Wednesday the investigations are meant to establish the source of the ivory and prosecute those culpable.

“Losing our animals to poachers is the most despicable thing. How does someone poach, kill the country’s wildlife for self-gain? The investigations are meant to unravel the source of the ivory,” said Mr Kimemia.

According to KRA Deputy Commissioner in Charge of Port operations Gitau G Gitau, the consignment was stuffed in a 20-foot container that was destined for Indonesia aboard a vessel called MV LalaBahadur.

He said a similar shipment was also intercepted in Hong Kong after it successfully evaded verification a month ago in what he termed "use of fake documents for clearance at the customs and Kenya Ports Authority".

Mr Gitau said that the goods were cleared as decoration stones by a clearing agent whom he pointed out would be suspended pending investigations.

He added that they are now watchful and are working together with other agencies to ensure such consignments do not make their way to their countries of destination.

“This afternoon we received an alert from our head office in Nairobi about a container that was about to transport ivory that was camouflaged as decoration stones. After the interception, we realised that the documents used were also fake,” said Mr Gitau.

Kenya Wildlife Service Assistant Director Coast region Simon Gitau, who counted the pieces, said that that the tusks may have likely come from other countries and not Kenya because of their packaging.

“These are roughly 250 elephants that have been killed and we have noted that the pieces may have come from other countries because the sacks have labels of Tanzania and Rwanda. KRA, Kenya Ports Authority and police are all eyes to ensure such shipments do not take place through the port,” said Mr Gitau adding that it was a ‘big catch’