The main contraband sugar suspect Mr Jaswant Rai has said that he is building a Ksh5 billion factory/storage facility in Kenya to advance his business agenda in the sugar industry.
In an interview with a local television station, the West Kenya Sugar chairman has also exonerated himself of the allegations labeled against him. The tycoon is accused of importing several tonnes of the poisonous contraband sugar in the country with his brand, the Kabras Sugar.
“More than a million tonnes of sugar have been imported, of which mine are 185,000 tonnes. This is what I produce locally using local sugarcane. However, all the focus is on me. Why?” wondered Rai.
Rai blames unscrupulous traders who have colluded with some millers to distribute the unprocessed sugar into the market, together with the leader of majority in the National Assembly Aden Duale for unfairly targeting West Kenya Sugar.
Rai admitted that he owns the Menengai refineries company and Amnei, which were both implicated by Duale for importing the contraband sugar.
“I have storage facilities in Nakuru, Mombasa Kakamega and other places in Kenya to ease business. I cannot store all the sugar in Mombasa, it will be difficult for business,” he argues, defending his widespread storehouses in the country.
However, Rai distanced himself from the sugar nabbed in Nairobi’s Eastleigh, saying that the sugar was counterfeit and in brown bags, whereas his are white. He says that he had labelled his bags ‘Not For Sale’ to ensure that the sugar is not sold on the way to its destination before verifying whether it is safe for human consumption.
The Rai family is believed to have had close ties with the ruling elite of the Moi, Kibaki and Kenyatta administrations, and has interests in cement production (Rai Cement), edible oils and soaps (Menengai Oil Refineries), sawmilling (Timsales), wheat farming, horticulture and real estate (Tulip Properties).
According to a story published in a local daily, West Kenya Sugar Company imported a total of 34 million kilogrammes of sugar last year but, overall, Raiply-associated businesses – Raiply is still owned by the Rai family – imported 187 million kilogrammes by taking advantage of the duty-free window opened by the government last year.
West Sugar has in the past locked horns with most of the local sugar producers for sugarcane poaching sugarcane. For lack of a financial muscle to tussle the giant, most of them have died, like Mumias.
Sugar companies zone areas where they should access sugarcane, and no company is allowed to cross to other company’s zone (poach). However, it is alleged that West Kenya Sugar uses its financial might to buy sugarcane from rivals’ zones, frustrating their efforts to get raw materials. Most of them, which are state-owned, have nosedived and eventually died
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