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Sugar scam mastermind arrested at JKIA on arrival from Dubai

Chrispus Waithaka, the alleged mastermind behind the theft of condemned sugar worth Sh163 million, was arrested by detectives at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) on Saturday night upon arrival from Dubai.

Mr Waithaka, a director of Assets and Cargo Limited, was one of the people who witnessed the breaking of customs seals on the 40 containers of condemned sugar on April 20.

The suspect had been flagged by security agencies and a travel ban was in circulation before he was intercepted by immigration officials on arrival in Nairobi.

The officers handed him over to DCI detectives who arrested him at Kamukunji Police Station and remanded him in custody pending his appearance in court this morning.

During the arrest, the suspect produced a copy of a Sh100,000 interim bail order that his lawyer said he had obtained from the Mombasa High Court on Friday.

“He was in possession of a copy of an interim order for anticipatory bail of Sh100,000 granted by the High Court in Mombasa vide Criminal Miscellaneous Application number E067/2023 dated 19 May 2023,” a police report said.

Investigations into the sugar scandal have been completed and the case file has been forwarded to the Directorate of Public Prosecutions, which is expected to approve charges against senior officials of the Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) and Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA), among other suspects.

On Wednesday last week, Civil Service boss Felix Koskei announced the suspension of 27 officials from Kebs, KRA, National Police Service (NPS), DCI and Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA) to pave way for investigations into the irregular release of the condemned sugar.

The suspended officials from Kebs include; Managing Director Lt Col (Rtd) Bernard Njiraini, Dr Geoffrey Muriira (Director Quality Assurance and Inspection), Hilda Keror (Manager Inspection, Mombasa Port Office), Liston Lagat (Assistant Manager, ICDN Nairobi), Stephen Owuor (Principal Officer) and Peter Olima Joseph (Inspector, Mombasa).

Those affected in KRA include; Joseph Kaguru, Mwanja Masinde, Stephen Muiruri, Moses Okoth, Doris Mutembei, Chacha Hondo, Carol Nyagechi and Derick Kago.

The AFA officials were Oscar Kai and Patrick Magut.

Other officials from security agencies who were part of an inter-agency team that handled the sugar and were also suspended include George Mithamo and Joel Kirui from NPS and Benard Ngumbi and Raphael Mwaka from DCI, Joseph Maita Mweni (Port Health) and Isackop Bonai (Nema), Stephen Cheruiyot (Anti-Counterfeiting Authority), Daniel Ngugi (KEPHIS), Willy Koskei (EACC) and Edwin Ruto (KPA).

The sugar – 20,000 bags of sugar, each weighing 50 kilograms – had been imported into the country in 2018 and condemned by the KEB for lack of an expiry date. The agency then ordered them to be re-shipped or destroyed at the owner’s expense.

However, “in fulfilment of its statutory mandate, the Kebs National Standards Council approved the destruction by conversion of the consignment for industrial ethanol use,” Mr Koskei said in a statement last week.

The conversion was to be carried out under the joint supervision of officials from Kebs and the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), following the competitive procurement of a distiller and the securing of the necessary fees and taxes.

In December 2022, Assets and Cargo Ltd wrote to Kebs MD Njiraini requesting to convert the condemned brown sugar into ethanol through distillation and the consignment was released to him in April this year.

Some of the officials, who were arrested and questioned by detectives last week, said the security seals on the containers containing the consignment were removed without their consent and the commodity was sold through private treaty at a value of Sh1,000 per 50kg bag.

“It has since been established that the consignment was irregularly diverted and procedurally released. In addition, the conditions for open and competitive procurement of the distiller were violated and the applicable taxes weren’t paid. It is evident that some officials in the relevant agencies have abdicated their responsibilities to the detriment of the public,” added Mr Koskei.

Only 14 of the 20,000 bags of condemned sugar were recovered by the police.

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