Car Smuggling Racket Erupts At the Kenya-Uganda Border

An open air car dealership in Uganda

Our investigations established that all the vehicles that are brought in are second hand, mostly Japanese models, Saloons and pick-ups and a few European models like Renaults, Volvos and Mercedes Benzes. Ironically, most vehicles are imported into Uganda through the port of Mombasa in Kenya and transited by road to various destinations in Uganda, especially the capital Kampala before being smuggled back into Kenya

By The Weekly Vision

A car smuggling racket along the Uganda- Kenya border has been going on for as long as most of us can remember. But in the recent past, the main players in the illegal practice have roped in the men and women who are mandated by law to guard against the illegal activity, the police.

Senior Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) officials and security personnel stationed along the border towns of Busia and Malaba are now part of the illegal activity along the border, The Weekly Vision can authoritatively reveal.  

The vehicles come in from across the border from Uganda complete with Ugandan number plates and unverified insurance covers in a rampant multi-billion shillings racket that has seen Kenya lose out in the collection of billions of shillings in customs duties and other taxes.

Our investigations established that all the vehicles that are brought in are second hand, mostly Japanese models, Saloons and pick-ups and a few European models like Renaults, Volvos and Mercedes Benzes. Ironically, most vehicles are imported into Uganda through the port of Mombasa in Kenya and transited by road to various destinations in Uganda, especially the capital Kampala before being smuggled back into Kenya.

Most of the cars and pick-ups in Uganda retail at between Kshs. 150, 000 to Kshs 500, 000 while in Kenya they cost double or even triple that

The booming illegal business was only slightly disrupted by the eruption of Covid-19 when both countries were forced to lock the border to stop the spread of the disease.While concentrating only on exposing the smuggling into Kenya of expensive luxury high-end cars from Europe and the rest of the old, the government seems to have ignored the dangers posed by the cheap cars coming in from neighboring Uganda since most of the dealers bring in vehicles that are eight or more years old, skirting around the government ban. According to the dealers, the driving force behind the continuous illegal racket is that Uganda imposes very low levels of import duties on second-hand vehicles as compared to Kenya and that there are no age limit prohibitions.

“Why would you buy a car at inflated prices in Kenya when you can get the same at a cheaper price just across the border“? The Kenya National Chamber of Commerce Industries (KNCCI) Busia County branch chairman Peter Kubebea and a senior Regional Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) official confirmed the existence of the racket

At the same time, annual comprehensive insurance cover charges are cheaper in Uganda per unit compared to Kenya which imposes higher duties per unit and insurance covers. One of the dealers who requested not to be named for what he termed “business concerns” said: “Most of these cars and pick-ups in Uganda are retailing at between Kshs. 150, 000 to Kshs 500, 000 while in Kenya they cost double or even triple that.”

The dealer said the result has seen Kenyan buyers flock to Ugandan for cars more than ever before. The business was reduced to a trickle when the Uganda-Kenya governments closed all entry and exit points, banned all public travel and ordered virtually a total lockdown to control the spread of Covid 19, the business is now back and thriving thanks to KRA and police officers along the border.

“Why would you buy a car at inflated prices in Kenya when you can get the same at a cheaper price just across the border? The Kenya National Chamber of Commerce Industries (KNCCI) Busia County branch chairman Peter Kubebea and a senior Regional Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) official confirmed that the automobiles were being transited into the country mostly through Busia and Malaba border towns.

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