Trader accuses state of illegally detaining his Sh250 million rice

Director of Criminal investigations George Kinoti in his office at DCI headquarters during an interview. Photo/Monicah Mwangi
Director of Criminal investigations George Kinoti in his office at DCI headquarters during an interview. Photo/Monicah Mwangi

An importer has accused the government agencies of withholding his consignment of rice illegally a week after a court ordered that he takes control of his goods.

Phoenix Global has been fighting for the release of the 10,000 tonnes of rice valued at about Sh250 million.

The rice was confiscated by a multi-agency team at the height of the operation to rid the country of counterfeit goods in 2018.

The importer accuses the Kenya Bureau of Standards and the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) of defying court orders allowing him to pick the consignment.

Judge Eric Ogola of the Mombasa High Court on January 24, granted the company the order after Kebs failed to prove that the rice was unfit for human consumption.

In the case, Phoenix had sued Kenya Revenue Authority, Kebs, DCI, Attorney General, Anti-Counterfeit Agency, and Financial Reporting Centre.

The company said it lost Sh53 million as a result of the manner in which the investigative agencies handled the produce.

The importer further says the rice requires fumigation but police officers at their warehouse have locked them out.

Judge Ogola, in this regard, awarded the petitioner Sh15 million in damages.

The judge ruled that Kebs meets the cost arising from storage charges, financial and interest costs, staff salary, loss of business, and sampling.

“Kebs failed to recognise the results of the verification from its own agents. Kebs has not sacked or complained to the said agents and has also done local verification that does not indict the petitioner,” Ogola said in his ruling.

“I am satisfied that the blame in this petition must fall solely on Kebs. KRA has done its statutory duty and cannot be blamed for Kebs’ shortcomings.”

The importer, in its submissions, said the bone of contention was on the grading of the rice and not the suitability for consumption.

KRA and Kebs had claimed the consignment, which originated largely from Thailand and Pakistan, had aflatoxin.

“The DCI set parameters which Kebs was to use in conducting the test yet the results produced in court do not address this concern,” Ogola said.

The judge held that the rice was properly verified and a pre-verification certificate issued in conformity.

“There is no valid reason why the said rice is still held in the Mitchell Cotts warehouse,” Ogola said adding that the difference in grain size is negligible to warrant the destruction of the consignment.

The government last year escalated

checks on foods imports after it emergedthat sugar poisoned with heavy metals had been shipped into the country as human food.