Police vehicle nabbed smuggling sandalwood worth Sh20 million
A police vehicle was on Sunday morning nabbed ferrying sandalwood worth Sh20 million by Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and intelligence officers in Nakuru.
The vehicle belonging to Baringo County, East Pokot sub-County Administration Police (AP) unit was impounded at Kiamunyi Estate in the outskirts of Nakuru Town at around 3 am after the officers acting on a tip off from members of the public intercepted it.
Four suspects, including Willy Sergon, Augustine Munyamba, Simon Kangethe Thuo and Atanal Rondo, an AP officer, were arrested while offloading the sandalwood, however, three others managed to escape in a personal vehicle that had been following the lorry.
According to a detective who spoke on condition of anonymity, the suspects pleaded guilty during the arrest and attempted to bribe the officers with Sh100,000 to be set free.
“The lorry was being escorted by a personal vehicle and on arrest, three suspects escaped while the four pleaded with the officers to free them,” said the detective.
However, the officers told them that negotiations could only kick off with the involvement of their seniors.
The officers then requested for enforcement from Baringo and Nakuru before ambushing the home where the sandalwood was being kept and arrested the four suspects who were found in the process of offloading the endangered plant species.
The owner of the house, Augustine Munyamba, was also arrested in the incident.
He detective informed Citizen Digital that one of the suspects arrested had a case at a Kabarnet court on trading in sandalwood.
Nakuru KWS Senior Warden Dickson Ritan said intelligence and KWS officers had been acting on a tip since last week before moving in for the arrest on Sunday morning.
Ritan said his office had received information from members of the public that illegal traders were harvesting and transporting the endangered species at late hours of the night, despite a ban by the government.
He said that sandalwood from Arabal in East Pokot was to be offloaded in Nakuru and later transported to Namanga Town before being ferried to Tanzania.
“The suspects had planned to offload the sandalwood in Nakuru as they waited for their colleagues to transport it to Tanzania via Namanga,” Ritan stated.
He lamented that efforts by KWS to protect the endangered plant species are being frustrated by the continuing illegal business and a section of security officers.
He added that Baringo County is a major target by illegal sandalwood traders as the species is found in dry and semi-arid areas like Marigat, Loboi, Barwessa, Arabal and Nginyag.
Sandalwood is used to make expensive perfumes and has a market in India and the Far East.
The suspects were handed over to the Nakuru Central Police station for interrogation before being arraigned in court on Monday.
By Evans Asiba
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