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Why Chinese fish should worry you




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The fish you consume at restaurants in urban areas is disguised as a local catch amid rising consumer concerns over imports from China and helplessness by the standards agency to enforce safety.

At the Gikomba Market in Nairobi, Chinese fish is sold openly but after being repackaged by traders.

This involves removing the frozen pieces from the packed boxes that come with a two-year expiry date.

After repacking, they are sent to various locations by handcarts. Should anyone ask the source of the fish, the instructions are firm: from Lake Victoria.

Laboratory tests commissioned by the Nation two weeks ago revealed that fish imported from China had traces of mercury, lead, arsenic and copper, exposing millions to health risks.

The Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) however denies the fish poses any danger to human health.

In a response to the Nation on the health concerns raised by the laboratory results, Kebs said tests on fish samples from various sources at its accredited laboratories did not find any lead, copper or mercury.

“All imports to Kenya are required to be tested at the country of origin; and if they meet the specifications in the standards they are issued with a certificate of conformity. Upon arrival in Kenya, the imports are subjected to destination inspection,” the agency said.

Fish imports are not subjected to further laboratory tests once they land in the country. Kenya has therefore left fish consumers at the fate of Chinese-approved agents.

The Chinese fish is preferred by traders because it is affordable, with a box of about 60 pieces retailing at Sh2,700 among wholesale traders. A piece of medium-sized fish from Lake Victoria costs Sh450.

The Chinese fish has become more popular in restaurants, open markets, kiosks, roadside eateries and the famous Gikomba Market in Nairobi even as the locally farmed product struggles to meet the growing demand.

Though the levels of contamination with heavy metals such as lead, mercury, copper and arsenic are within the United Nations’ maximum permissible standards limits, their presence and long-term effects in the human body pose serious health risks.

The EastAfrican (a publication of Nation Media Group), took a sample of Chinese imported fish, which it purchased from vendors at Gikomba, to the University of Nairobi’s Public Health and Pharmacology laboratory and traces of lead, copper, mercury and arsenic were found in the fish.

The results confirmed residues of 0.04 ppm of lead, o. 005 ppm of mercury, >0.001 ppm of arsenic and 1.2 ppm of copper, indicating possible contamination of the water ponds used to farm these fish, which are later imported into the region.

“The results show that these fish have permissible standard limits, but it is still worrying that their presence can be detected. Long-term exposure to these metals for the human body, through frequent consumption of such food, can have a disastrous effect,” Prof James Mbaria, the University of Nairobi’s Public Health head of department, said of the results.

The presence of the heavy metals in the imported fish means that these farmed products are exposed to either use of petrol-powered water pump or pesticide application apparatus leading to contamination of their ponds and hence the exposure of lead and copper.

For consumers, this will be of definite concern given that the possibility of harmful effects cannot be ruled out after a long period of consumption of the fish.

“Heavy metals can cause serious health hazards, and any potential dietary exposure to lead or mercury possess possible risk to human health,” Prof Mbaria said.


The EastAfrican undertook the study following previous health fears on fish imported from China after several countries, including the US, called for stricter enforcement of safety and health checks by Chinese authorities on the commodity.

The Nation laboratory tests were intended to determine the level of drug residues including streptomycin, sulfadimidine, oxytetracycline, and penicillin, as well as pesticide residues.

The test results did not detect any drug or pesticide residue in the Chinese fish sampled.

Kenya has recently turned to China to meet its fish consumption demand, which has seen its fish imports from the Asian nation double in the past two years to hit $20.1 million (Sh2 billion) in 2017 from $10.2 million the previous year, adding impetus to concerns that China is flooding the local market with fish to the detriment of local fishermen.

According to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), Kenya spent $22.17 million on fish imports in the first 11 months of 2017, reflecting the strong strangle for the Chinese fish market locally, as it accounted for more than 90 percent of these imports.

The Chinese imports, which stood at $6.24 million in 2015, came at a time when local production was falling over concerns about dwindling stocks.

Pollution of fish-breeding areas, slow uptake of new production methods like cage farming and fish ponds as well as lack of standard inputs like fingerlings and feeds mean that Kenya will continue importing fish into the foreseeable future.

However, renewed national attention on the blue economy could see the country become self-sufficient in fish production, leaving some for export in the long term.

Frozen fish that included tilapia and mackerel was the most imported fish stock from China.

Tanzania, which controls more than half of Lake Victoria, also saw a 23 percent increase in its fish imports from the Asian nation, to stand at $8 million as at the end of last year, having doubled from $3.6 million in 2014.

Dar es Salaam imported frozen Pacific mackerel, Indian mackerel, chub, frozen sardine and Una tilapia.

Tilapia had the highest value per tonne at $2,300 followed by the Pacific mackerel at $1,002 per tonne. In 2017, it imported more than 12, 000 tonnes of the mackerel fish species.

The presence of toxic metals is not just limited to the imported fish given that several recent studies of Kenyan farmed fish also revealed that there exist potential hazardous chemicals in the products.

Two years ago, a study by the University of Nairobi led by Dr Isaac Omwenga tested 213 fish samples from 60 ponds in Kiambu and Machakos and found them to be contaminated with banned agricultural chemicals, with some having the potential to cause cancer.

Human poisoning from aldrin and dieldrin is characterised by major body convulsions. Heptachlor is highly toxic to humans and can be absorbed through the skin, lungs and the food tract.

These chemicals are banned in most countries and in Kenya by the Pest Control Products Board.

“While the contamination did not breach international health safety standards, it is an extremely worrying trend,” Dr Laetitia W. Kanja of the University of Nairobi and one of the study authors said.



Sordid tale of the bank ‘that would bribe God’




Bank of Credit and Commerce International. August 1991. [File, Standard]

“This bank would bribe God.” These words of a former employee of the disgraced Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) sum up one of the most rotten global financial institutions.
BCCI pitched itself as a top bank for the Third World, but its spectacular collapse would reveal a web of transnational corruption and a playground for dictators, drug lords and terrorists.
It was one of the largest banks cutting across 69 countries and its aftermath would cause despair to innocent depositors, including Kenyans.
BCCI, which had $20 billion (Sh2.1 trillion in today’s exchange rate) assets globally, was revealed to have lost more than its entire capital.
The bank was founded in 1972 by the crafty Pakistani banker Agha Hasan Abedi.
He was loved in his homeland for his charitable acts but would go on to break every rule known to God and man.
In 1991, the Bank of England (BoE) froze its assets, citing large-scale fraud running for several years. This would see the bank cease operations in multiple countries. The Luxembourg-based BCCI was 77 per cent owned by the Gulf Emirate of Abu Dhabi.  
BoE investigations had unearthed laundering of drugs money, terrorism financing and the bank boasted of having high-profile customers such as Panama’s former strongman Manual Noriega as customers.
The Standard, quoting “highly placed” sources reported that Abu Dhabi ruler Sheikh Zayed Sultan would act as guarantor to protect the savings of Kenyan depositors.
The bank had five branches countrywide and panic had gripped depositors on the state of their money.
Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) would then move to appoint a manager to oversee the operations of the BCCI operations in Kenya.
It sent statements assuring depositors that their money was safe.
The Standard reported that the Sheikh would be approaching the Kenyan and other regional subsidiaries of the bank to urge them to maintain operations and assure them of his personal support.
It was said that contact between CBK and Abu Dhabi was “likely.”
This came as the British Ambassador to the UAE Graham Burton implored the gulf state to help compensate Britons, and the Indian government also took similar steps.
The collapse of BCCI was, however, not expect to badly hit the Kenyan banking system. This was during the sleazy 1990s when Kenya’s banking system was badly tested. It was the era of high graft and “political banks,” where the institutions fraudulently lent to firms belonging or connected to politicians, who were sometimes also shareholders.
And even though the impact was expected to be minimal, it was projected that a significant number of depositors would transfer funds from Asian and Arab banks to other local institutions.
“Confidence in Arab banking has taken a serious knock,” the “highly placed” source told The Standard.
BCCI didn’t go down without a fight. It accused the British government of a conspiracy to bring down the Pakistani-run bank.  The Sheikh was said to be furious and would later engage in a protracted legal battle with the British.
“It looks to us like a Western plot to eliminate a successful Muslim-run Third World Bank. We know that it often acted unethically. But that is no excuse for putting it out of business, especially as the Sultan of Abu Dhabi had agreed to a restructuring plan,” said a spokesperson for British Asians.
A CBK statement signed by then-Deputy Governor Wanjohi Murithi said it was keenly monitoring affairs of the mother bank and would go to lengths to protect Kenyan depositors.
“In this respect, the CBK has sought and obtained the assurance of the branch’s management that the interests of depositors are not put at risk by the difficulties facing the parent company and that the bank will meet any withdrawal instructions by depositors in the normal course of business,” said Mr Murithi.
CBK added that it had maintained surveillance of the local branch and was satisfied with its solvency and liquidity.
This was meant to stop Kenyans from making panic withdrawals.
For instance, armed policemen would be deployed at the bank’s Nairobi branch on Koinange Street after the bank had announced it would shut its Kenyan operations.
In Britain, thousands of businesses owned by British Asians were on the verge of financial ruin following the closure of BCCI.
Their firms held almost half of the 120,000 bank accounts registered with BCCI in Britain. 
The African Development Bank was also not spared from this mess, with the bulk of its funds deposited and BCCI and stood to lose every coin.
Criminal culture
In Britain, local authorities from Scotland to the Channel Islands are said to have lost over £100 million (Sh15.2 billion in today’s exchange rate).
The biggest puzzle remained how BCCI was allowed by BoE and other monetary regulation authorities globally to reach such levels of fraudulence.
This was despite the bank being under tight watch owing to the conviction of some of its executives on narcotics laundering charges in the US.
Coast politician, the late Shariff Nassir, would claim that five primary schools in Mombasa lost nearly Sh1 million and appealed to then Education Minister George Saitoti to help recover the savings. Then BoE Governor Robin Leigh-Pemberton condemned it as so deeply immersed in fraud that rescue or recovery – at least in Britain – was out of the question.
“The culture of the bank is criminal,” he said. The bank was revealed to have targeted the Third World and had created several “institutional devices” to promote its operations in developing countries.
These included the Third World Foundation for Social and Economic Studies, a British-registered charity.
“It allowed it to cultivate high-level contacts among international statesmen,” reported The Observer, a British newspaper.
BCCI also arranged an annual Third World lecture and a Third World prize endowment fund of about $10 million (Sh1 billion in today’s exchange rate).
Winners of the annual prize had included Nelson Mandela (1985), sir Bob Geldof (1986) and Archbishop Desmond Tutu (1989).
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Agricultural Development Corporation Chief Accountant Gerald Karuga on the Spot Over Fraud –




Gerald Karuga, the acting chief accountant at the Agricultural Development Corporation (ADC), is on the spot over fraud in land dealings.

ADC was established in 1965 through an Act of Parliament Cap 346 to facilitate the land transfer programme from European settlers to locals after Kenya gained independence.

Karuga is under fire for allegedly aiding a former powerful permanent secretary in the KANU era Benjamin Kipkulei to deprive ADC beneficiaries of their land in Naivasha.

Kahawa Tungu understands that the aggrieved parties continue to protest the injustice and are now asking the Ethics and Anti-corruption Commission (EACC) and the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) to probe Karuga.

A source who spoke to Weekly Citizen publication revealed that Managing Director Mohammed Dulle is also involved in the mess at ADC.

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Dulle is accused of sidelining a section of staffers in the parastatal.

The sources at ADC intimated that Karuga has been placed strategically at ADC to safeguard interests of many people who acquired the corporations’ land as “donations” from former President Daniel Arap Moi.

Despite working at ADC for many years Karuga has never been transferred, a trend that has raised eyebrows.

“Karuga has worked here for more than 30 years and unlike other senior officers in other parastatals who are transferred after promotion or moved to different ministries, for him, he has stuck here for all these years and we highly suspect that he is aiding people who were dished out with big chunks of land belonging to the corporation in different parts of the country,” said the source.

In the case of Karuga safeguarding Kipkulei’s interests, workers at the parastatals and the victims who claim to have lost their land in Naivasha revealed that during the Moi regime some senior officials used dubious means to register people as beneficiaries of land without their knowledge and later on colluded with rogue land officials at the Ministry of Lands to acquire title deeds in their names instead of those of the benefactors.

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“We have information that Karuga has benefitted much from Kipkulei through helping him and this can be proved by the fact that since the matter of the Naivasha land began, he has been seen changing and buying high-end vehicles that many people of his rank in government can’t afford to buy or maintain,” the source added.

“He is even building a big apartment for rent in Ruiru town.”

The wealthy officer is valued at over Sh1.5 billion in prime properties and real estate.

Last month, more than 100 squatters caused scenes in Naivasha after raiding a private firm owned by Kipkulei.

The squatters, who claimed to have lived on the land for more than 40 years, were protesting take over of the land by a private developer who had allegedly bought the land from the former PS.

They pulled down a three-kilometre fence that the private developed had erected.

The squatters claimed that the former PS had not informed them that he had sold the land and that the developer was spraying harmful chemicals on the grass affecting their livestock and homes built on a section of the land.

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Naivasha Deputy County Commissioner Kisilu Mutua later issued a statement warning the squatters against encroaching on Kipkuleir’s land.

“They are illegally invading private land. We shall not allow the rule of the jungle to take root,” warned Mutua.

Meanwhile, a parliamentary committee recently demanded to know identities of 10 faceless people who grabbed 30,350 acres of land belonging to the parastatal, exposing the rot at the corporation.

ADC Chairman Nick Salat, who doubles up as the KANU party Secretary-General, denied knowledge of the individuals and has asked DCI to probe the matter.

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