Panic as Interpol seizes stolen vehicles

By Cyrus Ombati And Joseph Murimi

A minister and two Members of Parliament are among people whose vehicles have been impounded because Interpol lists their shiny road machines as stolen abroad, even though they have genuine Kenyan import and registration papers.

Detectives said the vehicles seized were listed as stolen in Japan, South Africa, Britain and other European countries. After the theft, they were exported to Kenya, Uganda or Tanzania through Dubai.

The impact of the crackdown was last evening unfolding as a minister admitted the Government too bought vehicles from the pool where Interpol traced the stolen vehicles. Most of Kenyan MPs, big-time business people and the moneyed cream of the Kenyan society could also be riding in the vehicles being sought.

Several prominent businesspeople watched as their vehicles, costing millions of shillings, were towed to police parking yards. Motorists who got wind of the impoundment went into panic, especially in Nairobi where the news spread fast.

Information minister Mutahi Kagwe, Gatundu North MP Patrick Muiruri, newly-crowned Boston Marathon champion Robert Cheruiyot and businessman Fai Amario were among those whose vehicles were impounded. However, Kagwe's Toyota VX was later released because police explained it had "genuine import papers".

The minister, however, said he had personally taken his vehicle for inspection after it emerged that vehicles imported from Dubai could have been stolen from Japan. After inspection, he said, the vehicle was returned to him. "The car is at my house," he added.

Kagwe said Kenyans legally bought the vehicles and had proper documentations. He blamed the Government of United Arab Emirates, which he said authorised the sales.

He said the UAE government was to blame and should compensate Kenyans if it turns out that the vehicles were actually stolen.

Kagwe said the Government has also imported many vehicles from Dubai and should be compensated. "If the vehicles are stolen from Japan and sold with the knowledge of the Government of Dubai, then it is the one to blame and should compensate Kenyans who are innocent. This will spell doom for trade with Dubai."

CID director Joseph Kamau said the detectives carrying out the operation had released some of the impounded vehicles to verify their document first.

"Some of the vehicles have been released for further cross border verification. It is a normal exercise though it is the first one to be conducted locally," he said.

Police also released Muiruri's Toyota VX car last evening after he complained that he bought it from a genuine motor vehicle dealer.

Kamau said the Interpol has data on the vehicles believed to have been stolen in European countries before being sold to innocent motorists and they are the ones they are pursuing.

The Interpol team working with the Kenyan police arrived in the country on Sunday and their work covers leading car markets such as Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu and Eldoret.

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