Economy

Importer loses compensation bid for Sh600m seized sugar

sugar

Sugar imports. FILE PHOTO | NMG

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Summary

  • Landmark Freight Services Ltd wanted the court to compel Kebs to pay damages for confiscating 400,000 bags of the product that was imported from Brazil in 2018.
  • Kebs flagged the consignment over high yeast content and sought its destruction, but Landmark argued that the seizure was done without explanation and hence was illegal.

A sugar importer’s bid to be compensated Sh609 million by the government for its brown sugar seized three years ago by the Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) has been dismissed by the High Court.

Landmark Freight Services Ltd wanted the court to compel Kebs to pay damages for confiscating 400,000 bags of the product that was imported from Brazil in 2018.

Kebs flagged the consignment over high yeast content and sought its destruction, but Landmark argued that the seizure was done without explanation and hence was illegal.

The government agency asked the court to dismiss the case, arguing that the firm lost a similar application two years ago but had cleverly brought back the same case instead of appealing against the decision of July 2019.

“It is therefore my finding that the claims in this suit were part and parcel of petition No 290 of 2018 which was determined on merit. The plaintiff, if not satisfied should have filed an appeal and not filed a fresh suit over the same claim of compensation for losses,” High Court judge Hedwig Ong’udi ruled.

The earlier claim for payment of damages was dismissed because the firm failed to show how Kebs violated its rights over the confiscation.

The sugar was imported during the exemption period granted by the Treasury and the firm claimed Kebs inspected the consignment at the point of loading by SGC Gulf Limited, its appointed agent, and issued with clearance certificates.

It maintained that Kebs carried out a random microbiology test at Mombasa port, which cleared the sugar.

The High Court later delivered its decision but the Justice Weldon Korir said it was unable to determine whether the sugar was good or bad for human consumption, and asked for an expert witness to give a report.

After weighing the evidence of the witness, the Judge concluded that the sugar was safe for consumption and directed that the seizure notices be lifted and the sugar be released.

The agency failed to release the sugar arguing that it had expired, forcing and the firm later sought to be compensated.