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Taxman thwarts dodgy traders’ attempts to evade customs duty

The new scanners by Kenya Revenue Authority at entry points has helped curb a multi-million-shilling tax evasion racket.

The crooks had used all ways to beat the authority’s system to import luxury cars declared as toys or bicycles; scrap batteries that turned out to be Kenyan tea for export and milk powder declared as gypsum board.

Between October 2016 and January 2017, there were six cases of containers confiscated over such mis-declarations, in a bid to get away with at least Sh130 million in tax.

Commissioner for Customs and Border Control, Mr Julius Musyoki, said investment in powerful non-intrusive scanners had nipped in the bud what would have been a free flowing tax loophole.

“We will continue upgrading our scanners and implement stringent measures, including intelligence sharing and use of scanners,” Mr Musyoki said in a statement to Sunday Nation.

The agency has scanners at key points of entry of Kilindini Port, Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Moi International Airport, Eldoret International Airport, Inland Container Depot in Embakasi and at Container Freight Stations.

This week, a parcel was intercepted with heroine tucked in 10 turtle artefacts. The sender was identified as Uche Samuel of Nyayo Estate in Embakasi, Nairobi, while the receiver was Sm Ruth Brown of Amsterdam. A thin tape had been used on the carvings to seal the drugs.

The authority’s deputy commissioner at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, said several large cargo had been seized.

“We have found fresh miraa hidden in consignments of flowers destined to a country that has banned the product, or some other contraband being sneaked in. Our scanners even prompt the users to test their accuracy. If the users fail, they are logged out automatically to guard against fatigued manpower,” Mr George Muia said.

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Nairobi Customs Region, which accounts for up to 20 per cent of customs revenue, has also confiscated several wrongly declared cargo.

The lates was on December 15, 2015, when 24 forty-feet containers carrying new clothes, shoes and milk powder were declared as flasks and sewing machines.

Sh75 million in taxes was being evaded. It was detected by the scanners.

Some 21 containers had new clothes disguised as cold rooms for horticultural farms which enjoy tax exemptions. Last month, a container loaded with two luxury cars and tiles was declared as carrying humanitarian and hospital donations on transit to Uganda.

Another container with two Range Rovers, a Peugeot and a Toyota Corolla, was declared as containing 600 bicycles. The importer even declared 200 bales of clothes, which were not in the consignment.

An October consignment of two containers with scrap batteries enroute to South Korea was declared as Kenyan tea for export. Tax evaders regularly mis-declare goods to evade tough laws on certain commodities. Exportation of scrap metal is regulated by law.

Milk powder, on the other hand, attracts a duty rate of 60 per cent. So bold are the dodgy importers that even the Pre-Arrival Cargo Clearance System appears not to have deterred them.

Many still use fake clearance documents in attempts to evade tax.

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