Rift Valley Regional Commissioner Maalim Mohammed has launched a 100-day Rapid Response Initiative (RRI) to get rid of counterfeit alcoholic drinks, illicit brews and narcotic substances in the region.
Maalim says the RRI programme seeks to enforce compliance with the national standards and other regulations, eliminate illicit and counterfeit alcoholic drinks and educate the public on the dangers of the drinks and narcotic substances.
The Multi-Agency operation which takes effect immediately will be extended to bar operators licensed by county governments and high end wholesale and retail outlets as it has emerged that counterfeiters are also targeting expensive alcohol brands in the market.
“In the past authorities have been training their eyes on cheaper brands, but we will not be thrown off track by fraudsters counterfeiting premium and luxurious whiskies, brandy and vodka. Dealers in fake products are also increasingly targeting far-flung villages. We will tighten surveillance in major towns but even if they go to remote areas, we will pursue them,” he said.
The Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) has documented several cases where illegal manufacturers have been packaging substandard alcohol in premium brand bottles complete with KRA excise stamps and even manufacturer and distributor batch numbers even as the latter disowned some of the brands insisting the batch numbers were fake.
In an interview held by Kenya News Agency at his office Maalim said besides posing serious public health and safety challenges the illegal dealers in the alcoholic beverages industry do not pay tax and thus deny legitimate players a level-playing ground and economy the much-needed revenues to grow.
Statistics from the Kenyan Revenue Authority (KRA) indicate that local manufacturers lose $42 million (Ksh5.1 billion) to counterfeiters while the government loses $80 million (Ksh9.75 billion) as potential tax revenue yearly.
The Regional Commissioner indicated that some of these illegal businesses further drive other forms of crime such as money laundering, drug trafficking and terrorism.
“President William Ruto has pronounced himself very clearly on his resolve to fight against counterfeit goods, illegal brews, fake stamps and uncertified products that are harmful. We are leaving nothing to chance in ensuring that his directive that those taking part in such unscrupulous businesses are be dealt with promptly is implemented to the letter,” added Maalim
Maalim said the RRI Initiative will rope in officers from National Government Administration Office (NGAO), the National Police Service, Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA), Anti-Counterfeit Agency (AFA), the National Authority for Campaign against Alcohol and Drugs Abuse (NACADA) the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI), local administrators, and the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS).
He called on other arms of the government to work harmoniously in complementing the fight against counterfeits, illicit brews and drug abuse.
Maalim directed the 14 county commissioners from the region, as the chairmen of security committees in their areas of jurisdiction, to implement structures for taming the menace.
“I have directed all the county commissioners in the Rift Valley region to collaborate with security and investigative agencies to map out the dens of this illicit trade in their regions and smash them. I have also advised them to profile notorious offenders .Any commissioner who does not know his/her job in safeguarding the social and economic wellness of this country can only be a joy rider in matters of governance,” he said.