Cartels in Kenya cash in on fake motorvehicle stickers

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The Government could be losing billions of money in a powerful syndicate that involves the manufacturing of fake motorvehicle stickers.

Investigations by the Standard On Saturday reveal that rogue businessmen are now producing a “me-too” sticker, with the Kenya Police logo, which they sell to public service vehicles at a margin.

The target vehicles, according to the players in the sector, are those being operated by Saccos as “they have little time to waste in the bureaucratic process that normally ends up with the bribing of motorvehicle inspectors.”

“Saccos are also reliable and understand the frustrations they go through during inspections,” a source said.

A matatu operator who spoke to this paper said it is “very hard” to differentiate between the fake and the original sticker, since the ink used in manufacturing is bought in the United States – the same market where the original ones are sourced.

Retail chains for the ink on Internet include Blacklight and Blacklight World. The latter is more popular as their prices are affordable and can be bought online.

“These cartels seem to be working closely with insiders who guide them on how to make the stickers,” Mr Karanja Kingo, a matatu driver, said.

Indeed, it is for this reason that the cartels are able to tell well in advance the colours and serial numbers for stickers, even before the genuine ones hit the market.

“The colours of the stickers vary periodically. But with our reliable contacts from the inspection unit, we can forecast which colour is coming at what time. Sometimes they tend to be uncooperative. This means we have to use one of our own vehicles to get the genuine sticker, which then guides us on our projects,” said a proprietor of one of the firms dealing with stickers.

The businessman says on average the business sells close to 4,000 pieces in a month, which retail at Sh3,000 per sticker. The orders however vary from season to season as police raids at times make them close shop for even a week.

“Since Nairobi’s business environment is full of uncertainties, we have divested our operations to County levels where police raids are still at minimal levels,” the businessman said.

Director of Motorvehicle Inspection Unit, Mr Mohammed Abdi, says the production of fake stickers is one of their biggest challenges.

“Technological developments globally are some of the problems we are facing today. We are aware of the challenge and that is why we keep on changing the colours and serial numbers. We are also working closely with the Kenya Bureau of Standards to ensure that security features are continuously updated,” he said.

Sources at the motorvehicle inspection told the Standard On Saturday that the current stickers are over a decade old, which has made easy for rogue traders to play around with its features.

But the situation is likely to be worsened by a recent tender, which is based on the old sticker model.

This, players in the sector argue, is likely to offer a fertile breeding ground for the unscrupulous traders., thus deny the State the much needed revenues.

By Mark Kapchanga, The Standard

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