At the moment, the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) is quite embarrassed over the mysterious loss of containers at the Port of Mombasa in what points to a well calculated internal fraud.
The importers who rely on KPA to handle their cargo from the shipping line before they clear and collect them have been shocked at times to find the cargo, which are sometimes stored in the bulky 40-foot containers, missing under unclear circumstances.
With some container losses remaining unresolved for over 10 years, KPA has been battling court cases, with some set to demand billions in compensation in lengthy and costly legal battles. The State agency, which admits to having suffered cyber-attacks in the fraud that has seen some containers disappear, could not however disclose the latest figures on how many containers have been lost.
Mr Abdullatif Ibrahim spoke to Sunday Nation over his experience of losing three 20-feet containers containing fabrics from China between August 2005 and November 2008. The businessman had received all clearances including the release orders and KPA invoices and had trucks ready to pick his cargo when he received a lethal blow to his business.
“When we went for customs verification, the containers could not be found. We looked all over the port but the containers had disappeared without trace,” Mr Ibrahim said. The importer wrote several letters to KPA to follow up on the container loss. He got two responses; one of the responses accepted that indeed the containers disappeared and another in November 2008 simply saying the request was rejected.
The claims, which according to documents he filed have hit Sh36 million (€310,000), were “awkwardly exaggerated” according to KPA. No other offer was given in return.
The businessman then had more salt rubbed on his wound when KRA slapped him with a Sh1.9 million (€16,300) duty demand for the cargo he was yet to see. For KRA, the goods were taxable having arrived in the country and for failure to pay the duty, the business was suspended.
The drama around his container losses saw some eight people, including KPA officials, arrested and charged with the theft of containers, and according to nation.co.ke, much more is to follow.