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Importer sues KRA over seized rice, sugar

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A KRA machine mixes rice with tar before it is destroyed by incineration. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

An importer is seeking to have the taxman and the police compelled to release its million shilling consignment of rice and sugar which it says is being held despite conforming to Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) requirements.

Phoenix Global Kenya Ltd also wants an order issued restraining the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) and the police from carrying out any further re-sampling tests on its 1,664 and 206.55 metric tonnes of rice and sugar respectively.

The company has sued KRA, the Director Criminal Investigations, regional criminal investigations officer-coast and the Attorney General after a multi-agency team fighting contraband goods detained its consignment.

Kebs has been named as a necessary party in the proceedings filed under certificate of urgency in which Phoenix is seeking some of the orders pending hearing and determination of the application and a petition it has filed.

Through lawyer Sanjeev Khagram, Phoenix argues that the respondents have denied it access to the Mitchell Cotts Bahari and other warehouses where its consignment is being held.

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“All the Mitchell Cotts warehouses where the petitioner’s rice and sugar are stored have been sealed with KRA seals and (the petitioner’s) efforts in obtaining access have been futile,” the application states in part.

Phoenix says it is unable to carry out business, thus risking incurring losses and harming its reputation in the market.

The importer further says it cannot access the warehouses to have the rice fumigated noting that it is a perishable commodity.

According to the petitioner, KRA and the police are conducting themselves in disregard of its rights to protection of property or fair trial.

“Should the respondents continue to wrongfully shut out the petitioner out of the warehouses for no reason, its business will be adversely affected to an extent that it would in all probability result in having to shut down its operations leading to lost jobs,” the application further states.

Phoenix further argues that the respondents have acted and continue to act with lack of candour, in bad faith and malice in sealing the warehouses and refusing to allow access when aware that the rice and sugar have been cleared by Kebs.

In his supporting affidavit, a director at Phoenix Mr Biren Jasani says the company is a significant contributor to government revenues, claiming that the firm pays tax and has traded ethically and professionally for over 15 years.

“Clearly the respondents conduct means that potentially, the petitioner is being locked out from undertaking its core business leading to not only closure of its business but its reputation shall also be adversely tarnished for no valid reason,” said Mr Jasani.

Justice Eric Ogola certified the application urgent and directed that it be heard today (Wednesday).

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