Kenyan police and Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) officials arrested two Sri Lankan nationals for allegedly mining without a licence in Taita-Taveta County.
KRA and Ministry of Mines officials said the foreigners were arrested in Voi town while engaging in the business illegally, the Standard Digital website reported.
“The suspects were doing mining business without following the laid down mining regulations. I have referred the matter to KRA regional office in Mombasa for further action,” said a senior KRA official, Hanningtone Olero.
The incident comes after the Mines department recently closed two gemstone dealers’ shops in Voi town for operating unlawfully.
“The gemstone dealers opened offices in the town without a licence. They have also been colluding with Sri Lankans to perpetrate illegal mining business in the region,” said the county’s geologist Edward Omito.
He said last year police arrested a Sri Lankan who had been buying gemstones in a hotel room without a permit.
Kenya is losing billions of shillings in a mineral-smuggling racket involving unscrupulous rich foreign gemstone dealers and miners in the region.
The influential mining cartels mainly from Sri Lanka and Tanzania come to the area to buy minerals and later smuggle them out of the country through undesignated routes along the porous Kenya-Tanzania border.
The cartels are said to be controlling the markets and prices of gemstones and local dealers are denied access.
Omito said foreign dealers are colluding with local ones to perpetrate the vice, hence bringing down mining business. He said the foreigners buy gemstones and disappear without following exit points.
“The Sri Lankans are sly and do not follow the right mining procedures. Let them do clear business. Some of them pretend to be tourists and later buy gemstones and smuggle the commodities out of Tanzania through the panya route,” he said.