Dar es Salaam — The seizure yesterday by Kenyan authorities of undeclared gold from Tanzania whose value was estimated at Sh2 billion has raised concerns over the continued laxity in mineral export processes in Tanzania, thus exposing Customs.
The Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) said on Wednesday that it had intercepted 32,255.50 grammes of gold bars worth KSh100 million (Sh2 billion) at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi.
The consignment was being transported to Dubai, and a Tanzanian national, whose identity was not revealed immediately, was arrested over the matter. "The suspect was intercepted following an intelligence alert. He arrived at JKIA at 1505hrs on Friday, February 16, on-board PrecisionAir from Mwanza via Kilimanjaro International Airport (KIA), heading for Dubai aboard a Kenya Airways flight," a statement issued yesterday by the KRA said.
How the suspect passed through Tanzanian customs checkpoints undetected remains unclear. The relevant Tanzanian authorities confirmed to The Citizen yesterday that their data base does not indicate any mineral export licences being issued for such amount in recent times.
The Tanzania commissioner for minerals, Mr Shukurani Manya, said he had no details on the matter, but was following it up. He added that, although the government has a centralized system for issuing mineral export permits, it was still up to customs officials at exit points to check whether minerals being exported do have the requisite documentation - and are declared to the officials as a matter of course.
"We have a very sound system of controlling mineral exports at all exit points. But one major challenge is that scanners are only found at the airports," Mr Manya said.
Still, the onus is on the staff operating scanners to demand physical check of baggage whenever they have doubt about the contents in the baggage, he added.
"Mineral inspectors located at checkpoints in non-airport exit points that lack scanners have been doing a great job to identify and arrest people trying to smuggle minerals out of the country," Mr Manya noted.
Smuggling of precious minerals out of Tanzania is rampant, prompting the ire of President John Magufuli who, last year, accused the relevant authorities of failing to protect the country's minerals from being smuggled out.
A few days after he berated the authorities in November 2016, the-then Tanzania Minerals Audit Authority announced to have intercepted Sh3 billion-worth of minerals that were about to be smuggled through various exit points in 25 incidents in the year 2015!
Mr Manya yesterday said that, since the beginning of January this year, the "government has arrested a good number of people" smuggling minerals out of the country. In that regard, some cases have been filed at various criminal courts, with some minerals being confiscated.
In November last year, a businessman named Noshad Mohamed Suleiman was arrested in possession of 8 kilos of undeclared gold bars at the Zanzibar International Airport. He was charged at the Kisutu Resident Magistrate's Court where his case is ongoing.