Police, KRA confiscate 'fake' alcoholic products valued at Sh22m

Fake alcohol

Police and KRA officials confiscated goods worth Sh22.7 million during a crackdown at an illegal distillery.

Photo credit: Vitalis Kimutai I Nation Media Group

Police and Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) officials have cracked down on an illegal wine and spirits distillery producing counterfeit alcoholic products in Kericho, where they confiscated goods worth Sh 22.7 million.

As a result, KRA is estimated to have lost Sh 12.2 million in unremitted revenue from the distiller.

The joint operation was conducted at Keongo village in Nyagacho area, Ainamoi constituency in Kericho town on Thursday morning.

“Rolls of counterfeit KRA stamps, drums full of ethanol, mixing buckets, assorted bottle tops, and counterfeit stickers of various distillers were recovered,” the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) said in a statement.

The confiscated alcoholic drinks are - Best, vodka, Space Vodka, Kane Extra, Venice Vodka and Tycoon Vodka.

“A seizure notice has been issued by KRA and all the recovered exhibits kept in custody by KRA,” the statement read.

The South counties – Kericho, Bomet and Narok, have lately become a dumping ground for counterfeit alcoholic drinks despite a government crackdown against suppliers, retailers and consumers.

Unsuspecting consumers in Narok, Bomet, Kericho and parts of Nakuru counties have been consuming the counterfeit liquor sold in retail outlets – but do not have certification from Kenya Bureau of Standards, have no KRA stamps, and have not been cleared by various government agencies for human consumption.

The government is said to have lost tens of millions of shillings in unremitted tax especially in the last six months that the trade has gone on unabated.

Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) officers, police, administrators have repeatedly been accused of allowing the unscrupulous businessmen to operate in the region, after receiving protection money from the operators.

The counterfeits in circulation are said to originate from Nakuru, Kisii, Nyamira, Kiambu and Nairobi counties where it is manufactured by unscrupulous businessmen in secluded areas away from the prying eyes of the public.

The liquor is packed in small bottles and is sold cheaply with the producers targeting mass markets in rural areas.

In various outlets, the drinks are opened and sold in small quantities with revelers paying for as little as Sh 40 to Sh 150 for a quarter and a full bottle of 250 millimeters.

Senate Majority Leader Aaron Cheruiyot and Kericho Governor Erick Mutai claimed at the weekend that cartels in the industry had compromised the police and KRA officers to allow the distribution of the counterfeits in the region.

Mr Cheruiyot who is also the Kericho Senator said that several youths had died as a result of consuming the unregulated drinks in the South Rift as government officers who should be cracking the whip against the vice are looking the other way.

“We would not allow those selling counterfeit liquor, especially BEST drinks, to destroy the lives of young people in the region,” Mr Cheruiyot said.

“As a matter of fact it is the KRA and Police officers who have been compromised by the cartels that will instead be destroyed….,” Mr Cheruiyot said.

Mr Cheruiyot also claimed recently that he has the names of senior KRA officers and the police officers who are part of the syndicate and had forwarded the list to the Ministry of Interior for action.

The Senator claimed that the cartels had threatened police officers who had refused to cooperate with them and had been involved in the crackdown.

Police in Kericho confiscated 9,000 bottles of counterfeit liquor which were being supplied to retail outlets last week in an indication of the daring nature of the operator.

In December last year security officers confiscated 1,100 cartons of counterfeit alcoholic drinks (Best brand) valued at Sh 4.4 million in one of the major operations in the region .

A lorry that was used to transport the spirits was confiscated while a driver and a loader were arrested by the police.

The vehicle was flagged down at Chelilis area in Bureti constituency while heading to Litein trading centre to offload the counterfeit spirits.

It came three days after police confiscated counterfeit alcoholic drinks valued at Sh 316,000 in Kericho town.

Mr Kamau Karungo, the Kericho County Commissioner stated that the government had as a result lost Sh 184,364 in unremitted taxes. It is expected that the government had lost hundreds of millions in taxes with cartels operating in the region.

“Security officers on patrol stumbled on a car that was distributing alcohol at night. They became suspicious, trailed the car and flagged it down before directing it be driven to the Kericho East police station,” Mr Kamau who was flanked by County Police Commander Rico Ngare said.

It had 95 boxes of alcoholic drinks (BEST) out of which only 16 had Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) stamps while 79 were counterfeits.

The Nissan Caravan that was used to transport the goods was detained at the Kericho police station while the driver and a loader were arrested and charged in court.

The counterfeits have fake Kenya Revenue Authority stamps and Kenya Bureau of Standards certification in what has denied the government revenue and are not  fit for human consumption" Mr Karungo said.

In Bomet and Narok counties raids by chiefs and their assistants in bars, wine and spirits shops have netted thousands of cartons of the contraband goods on sale to the members of the public.

Sotik Member of Parliament Francis Sigei, said there was a need to regulate the number of bars and wine shops operating in the region and ensure that adulterated alcoholic drinks were not in circulation.

He said many youths had lost their lives after drinking adulterated drinks in the region which are sold cheaply.

"It is very unfortunate that counterfeit alcoholic drinks are in circulation in what has compromised the health of the people. As leaders, we can not afford to look the other way as our region becomes a dumping ground for counterfeit alcoholic drinks,” Mr Sigei said.

Dr Ahmed Omar, the Bomet County Commissioner said the crackdown against the counterfeits will be continuously conducted until the vice is eradicated.

“We will not allow the sale of counterfeits that, apart from putting the lives of the consumers at risk, has also led to the government losing out in taxes. Let people do legitimate business and pay tax to the government,” Dr Omar said.

Police have also been accused of releasing the counterfeits back to the market after confiscating it.

A few cartons are presented to the Judiciary when the suspects are charged in courtWhile trucks used to transport the goods are supposed to be detained in police stations and forfeited to the state if the suspects are found guilty of the offence, have also been released in unclear circumstances.

But police have repeatedly been accused of tipping off the operators of the outlets and the suppliers of impending raids, thus giving them the opportunity to remove the particular brands from their shelves only to return them after the operations.

"Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) no longer conducts operations in outlets to rid the region of counterfeits. Something is seriously wrong with the authority and we are hoping that the recent change of guard will result in positive results" said Mr Richard Koech, a teacher.

Mr Githii Mburu recently resigned as the Commissioner General of the Kenya Revenue Authority and has been replaced on an interim basis by the Commissioner of Domestic Taxes Ms Rispah Simiyu in what also saw a shakeup in top management.

The new KRA chairman Anthony Mwaura and the board members are faced with a huge task of expanding the tax base as the government seeks to shore up revenue collection and avoid dependence on external borrowing to fund its development programs.


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