The Mombasa high court has ordered the release of imported rice that had been impounded by a team fighting contraband goods.
Part of the consignment had been detained by a multi-agency team.
High Court Judge Eric Ogola ordered the approximately over 84,000 bags of rice to be released immediately to Phoenix Global Kenya Ltd, the importer, after the Attorney-General and Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) submitted that it was good rice fit for human consumption.
According to Kebs, part of the consignment that is allegedly bad will be destroyed according to laid down procedures.
However, through lawyer Sanjeev Khagram, the rice importer told Justice Ogola that no consignment should be destroyed until the case is heard and a determination made by the court on whether the (remaining) rice is bad or not.
Phoenix global has sued the multi-agency team comprising Kenya Revenue Authority, Director of Criminal Investigation, Anti Counterfeit Agency, Financial Reporting Centre, Kebs and Mitchell Cotts (K) Ltd, the warehouse owners.
According to the rice importer, the team has unjustifiably denied it access to the warehouse where its consignments are stored.
In his affidavit, the coast regional criminal investigations officer, Mr Joseph Ng’ang’a, some rice samples failed in grading hence ought not to be released to the owner for sale and should be condemned for destruction.
“The release of the condemned rice to the public will contravene the Constitution which protects every person’s right to adequate food of acceptable quality,” said Mr Ng’ang’a in his affidavit.
He added that they are yet to receive test results of several samples submitted to Kebs, Nairobi.
According to the rice importer, the firm is unable to trade or carry on its business, as it risks incurring losses and harming its reputation.
Phoenix argues that the question of investigating the rice under the guise of contraband and uncustomed goods is a figment of the respondents’ imagination and an afterthought.
The company had been granted temporary orders restraining the multi-agency team from blocking its access to the rice or accessing the warehouses for purposes of depositing further consignments in the normal course of its business pending hearing of the application.
Phoenix global claims the government multiagency team which has been visiting warehouses in Mombasa to establish suitability of sugar consignments imported visited Mitchell Cotts warehouses where its rice is stored.
According to the company, its rice was stored amongst other commodities belonging to third parties and found some sugar consignments belonging to unrelated third parties.
It wants a declaration that the petitioner’s fundamental rights to the protection of its prosperity and protection of its property and from arbitrary deprivation have been breached.
The rice importer also wants a declaration that the respondents have acted inconsistently with and in breach of its powers.
It also wants an order prohibiting the respondents from interfering with its proprietary rights or its access to their rice consignments stored at the Mitchell Cotts warehouses in Mombasa or accessing the warehouses for purposes of depositing further consignment of rice.
Justice Ogola directed that an application for contempt of court filed by the importer and another by KRA seeking a variation of court orders be heard simultaneously on September 26.