DCI wants 2 KPA bosses ousted over cargo theft

port cranes

KPA workers at the port. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Police have petitioned the Treasury to suspend two managers of the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) amid investigations into a suspected container smuggling racket at the port of Mombasa believed to be depriving Kenya of tax revenues.

The Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) has asked Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani for the temporary removal of KPA’s general manager of port operations, Sudi Mwasinago, and the acting principal officer for ship operations, Evans Akunava.

The DCI reckons the two managers could interfere with the ongoing probe of the racket involving the release of containers through a manual system, which allows for cargo to exit the port without taxes paid.

“There exist potential risks that the suspects will interfere with crucial forensic evidence and their continued stay in office will be highly prejudicial to the investigation,” said John Gachomo, head of Investigations Bureau at DCI, in the letter to Mr Yatani.

Smuggling racket

“Until now, the two still have access to the material and data under investigation.” There are widespread allegations of officials of the port and other government agencies colluding with rogue importers and exporters in a smuggling racket.

Containers are expected to be cleared through an online system dubbed Kilindini Waterfront Automation System (Kwatos), which was installed in 2008 to curb tax evasion.

The containers cleared manually are later fed into the Kwatos system to indicate they remain within the KPA premises.

The port has become a focal point for President Uhuru Kenyatta’s administration’s clampdown on cartel networks blamed for the inefficiency in the clearance of cargo.

The DCI has since September been probing data captured on the Kwatos portal and all containers that arrived at the Mombasa port from February 2021.

Police also sought ownership documents of all containers and amounts paid in taxes to the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) over the past eight months.

The investigators accessed the list of containers that were cleared manually from the port since January and registrations of vehicles that have been hauling cargo from the facility since February.

“It is evident there exists deliberate illegal activities of container smuggling and tax evasion executed by port managers in cahoots with importers and owners of container freight stations,” said Mr Gachomo.

The DCI says that the movement of containers from the port via the standard gauge railway (SGR) has increased since it started the probe, signalling missing containers.