Kenyans smoked 700 million fake cigarettes last year with billions going up in smoke

Unscrupulous government officials facilitated entry of the goods via Kenya’s border points.

BAT’s Area Head of Security John Evans Monday told a forum on illicit trade in Nairobi that about 700 million fake cigarettes were sold locally last year and said corruption in government was to blame, even as the government announced a multi-sectoral agency to deal with the vice.

Mr. Evans said that culprits were bribing their way to freedom while convictions and fines are meted out by courts daily but unaccustomed cigarettes bearing Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) stamps were still finding their way into the market.

“The new multi-agency model must be well-equipped and funded to win this war against graft starting from within,” Mr Evans said.

Unscrupulous government officials facilitated entry of the goods via Kenya’s border points while others helped the goods to acquire approval certificates including revenue stamps.

“We need to invest in this fight where even "untouchable" government officials who protect the illicit tobacco traders are dealt with severely,” he said.

Mastermind Tobacco (Kenya) Limited’s Jason Njenga said they were spent up to Sh70 million ($700,000)annually fighting counterfeit products where nearly 200 cases were reported weekly.

However, more deadlier is the cost of life since compared to legal cigarettes approved by KRA and Kenya Bureau of Standards most counterfeit cigarettes do not meet safety standards and carry a higher risk of causing Cancer and other smoking related illness.

Trade Principal Secretary Chris Kiptoo said a notice will be published in the Kenya Gazette in a month’s time regularising formation of the National Anti-illicit Trade Committee as well as an Executives’ forum where state agency chief executives will meet regularly to spearhead the fight against counterfeit products.

“We must help our manufacturers reach their 15 per cent target up from the current 9 per cent. And regulatory agencies must co-ordinate their activities to beat illicit trade that has eaten a large chunk of the market share for genuine manufacturers,” he said.

The multi-agency committee will bring together the KRA, Anti-Counterfeit Agency, Kenya Industrial Property Institute, Pests Control and Products Board, Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service among others.

The manufacturers and franchise-holders welcomed the planned team to combat the trade and called for the formation of special courts to fast-track hearing and determination of anti-counterfeit suits.

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