The Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) has uncovered yet another vehicle number plates racket at the Mombasa port where hundreds of imported vehicles have been cleared without the mandatory National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) registration.
“It has come to our attention that the procedure for release of imported motor vehicles has not been implemented by release officers at the port and the CFSs,” Joseph Tonui, an investigations and enforcement manager at KRA, said in a letter to the agency’s port officials on January 25, about ten days after the dusitD2 Hotel attack.
Vehicles imported into the country should automatically be allocated number plates and their details captured by NTSA before they leave the port or container freight stations (CFSs). KRA, however, has since learnt that its employees at CFSs and the Port of Mombasa have been allowing hundreds of vehicles to be released before being registered.
Unregistered vehicles also deny the taxman hundreds of millions of shillings in revenue when they are irregularly diverted into the market without paying taxes.
It was not clear under what circumstances the vehicles were released.
Some dealers have a habit of clearing their cars from the port without registration to exploit the high demand for the latest number plates on the second-hand vehicles market.
Cars with the latest number plates have the highest appeal and usually command higher prices than older registered cars. A dealer can, therefore, keep unregistered cars for months and register them only when a sale has been confirmed, effectively pocketing the "number plate premium".
Such registration, months after the import date, is however irregular and has put the NTSA and KRA under the spotlight.