In Kenya, Security Officers Arrested in Container Theft Scandal

Eight people, among them five security officers, have been arrested in connection with a multi-million-shilling container theft racket at the port of Mombasa.

Mombasa Port DCIO Hassan Abdillahi said those being detained include a police officer, four Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) security officers and three civilians.

"We have the eight suspects in police custody and they are helping us with investigations in connection with the theft of containers," he said.

The DCIO said police had also unearthed a yard fully equipped with a crane which they suspect was used in off-loading containers stolen from the port.

Diverted destinations
"We found two other containers at the yard, an empty one and another, which our records show were destined to Uganda," he said.

Mr Abdillahi said police stumbled on the yard after launching investigations in a case in which a container had been fraudulently removed from the port. He said the container had been declared as destined to the Democratic Republic of Congo.

"The arrested officers are suspected to have colluded with the masterminds of the container theft syndicate and this should serve as a warning to wayward security officers," he said.

Cases of container theft have been on the rise in the recent past.

The Kenya Ports Authority stands to lose millions of shillings in compensation claims in the racket which is said to involve unscrupulous importers, port workers and police officers.

Early this year, a special team from CID headquarters in Nairobi was at the port where it carried out investigations into rampant cargo theft in the port and established the theft to be the work of a syndicate masterminded by unscrupulous importers and port workers.

KPA and KRA staff suspected
Following the investigations, more than 10 people, among them a police officer, clearing and forwarding agents and KPA security officers, were arrested and charged.

It is suspected that the racket involves KPA and Kenya Revenue Authority employees, importers, clearing and forwarding agents and the police.

Since the beginning of the year, KPA is said to have recorded the highest number of cases of cargo pilferage in recent times.

Following the increased theft, KPA is said to be bracing itself for massive claims from importers whose goods were stolen from the port while awaiting clearance.

The rampant cargo theft comes at a time when the government is said to be losing millions of shillings in revenue through false declarations and under-valuation.

(c) 2005 The Nation (Kenya). Distributed by Allafrica Global Media.