The Star (Nairobi)

10 April 2012

Kenya: KRA Postpones Opening of Container With Ivory

Kenya Revenue Authority officials in Mombasa have yet again postponed the opening of a container full of ivory found at the Kenya Ports Authority warehouse last week.

The container seized at KPA's G-section that houses old uncollected containers was hurriedly towed to the customs warehouse after the officers inspecting the containers found that the container-TRLU 562664(8) was full of ivory.

The container is one of the many Transport Minister Amos Kimunya had ordered auctioned to clear the port. and was initially slated to be opened last Friday.

However there was no communication from KRA officials despite all the media houses and other stakeholders, being kept waiting for the better part of that day.

This prompted KRA southern region deputy commissioner Rose Gachira to make an announcement that the container will be opened on Tuesday (yesterday). "We shall open the container on Tuesday in full glare of the media and all the details about the controversial container will be known," read part of the text message circulated by Gachira.

However, by yesterday, the container had not been opened as Gachira and the team said the issue needed a high powered coordination of the Kenya Wildlife Service officers, police and other stakeholders.

"We are still doing coordination and as you know, people just came from Easter the other day. Be patient and we shall tell you when to open it," said Gachira on phone.

KWS coast regional boss Simon Gitau said they could not approximate the actual value of the container before opening it. He faulted the press for the publication of the last story when the container was found at the port saying they erred in doing so without final accreditation of the container contents.

"I cannot tell what and of what value is entailed in the container. We are opening that container tomorrow (Wednesday) at 9am, be patient and ready to get the facts right about the consignment," said Gitau on the phone.

A senior officer at the port who sought anonymity told the Star that the move undertaken by KRA over the container was suspicious citing a hatched plot to relocate the container and sneak it out of the port.

"If the container was found last week, what coordination are they still talking about? KPA has no problem and we shall watch until the truth is established," said the officer.

The officer also cited a conflicting arrival dates of the cargo at port with other revelations citing that the container first arrived at the port in 2006 as an import.

This is contrary to the reports earlier on indicating that the container arrived at the port in March 2009 without a full disclosure of whether it was an import or export with no destination or origin indicated.

KRA's Gachira said that they could not locate where the container had been shipped from and where it was headed to. "Maybe the full details will be known when we open the container.

Right now we don't have any details of the cargo," she said.

Claims of other wildlife assortment are rife with reports indicating that leopard skins are among the goods loaded in the container.

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