Detectives from the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) and the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) in the South Rift region are investigating timber yards and merchants linked to the plunder of the Mau Forest.
The Nation has learnt that the officers are pursuing crucial leads to establish who are behind the illegal logging and charcoal business targeting indigenous trees in sections of the Mau Forest complex.
A senior detective involved in the probe Wednesday revealed that the agencies are working closely with the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) and are narrowing down on timber merchants, linked to a syndicate that has been plundering the Mau Forest.
“Detectives are investigating revelations that timber merchants and corrupt police officers are part of the well-networked syndicate. Soon, those found culpable will face the full wrath of the law,” said the lead investigator who sought anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter.
According to the officer, the detectives are investigating some timber merchants in Nakuru and others from other parts believed to be involved.
The deputy chief conservator of forests in charge of security and protection, Mr Alex Lemarkoko, also confirmed that KFS is in the course of establishing who are involved in the destruction.
“Yes, we officers are investigating the matter and those involved will soon face the law,” said Mr Lemarkoko, without divulging more about the probe.
Last month, KFS officers and police in Nakuru unearthed a syndicate believed to be behind the thriving illegal logging in sections of the Mau Forest complex.
The officers seized a lorry ferrying endangered species of cedar and Elgon teak poles estimated to be worth Sh500,000.
KFS officials said the timber is believed to have been sourced from the Olkurto section of the Maasai Mau Forest in Narok County.
The lorry was impounded while transporting the timber along the Njoro-Mauche road heading to Nakuru town.
The driver of the lorry was also arrested.
KFS revealed that the unscrupulous timber merchants always collude with some of its rogue officials to evade police dragnets.
In another recent incident, police in Bomet County on Monday evening impounded a lorry belonging to the General Service Unit as it ferried 450 cedar posts.
The Isuzu lorry registration GKB 447R veered off the road and landed in a ditch as it ferried the posts from Chebunyo to a neighbouring county.
Police established that the lorry is attached to the Anti-Stock Theft Unit camp at Nemesis on the Bomet-Kisii-Narok County border.
Chepalungu Sub-County police boss Nelson Masai said investigations into the incident had commenced.
The Mau Forest complex, which straddles across Nakuru, Kericho, Baringo, Narok and Bomet counties, is the country’s largest remaining indigenous forest and also the largest of the country’s five water towers as well as the largest closed-canopy forest ecosystem.
In the Eastern Mau section in Nakuru, most places including Marioshoni, Kiptunga, Logoman, Sigoin and Tiritagoi at the fringes of the forest are also affected.
The probe come in the wake of an outcry of an unfolding environmental disaster due to the degradation especially within the expansive Mau Forest complex that threatens millions of Kenyans who depend on the water tower.
Last year, the government extended a ban on logging in public forests for one year.
A moratorium on logging has been in place since February 2018, following a public outcry over illegal logging that was blamed for the diminishing water levels in the country's key rivers.
Already, the impact of the ban on logging has been felt in some towns especially in the South Rift region which initially enjoyed a vibrant economy supported by the lucrative timber industry.
They include Elburgon and Maji Mazuri towns in Nakuru and Baringo counties respectively.
Environment Cabinet Secretary Keriako Tobiko on November 24, 2018 said the extension of the ban will facilitate the rehabilitation of forests.
He said the move will also pave way for a total overhaul of the KFS management structure and processes, curb corruption and enhance its effectiveness.
The extension of the ban dashed hopes by saw millers that the restrictions on logging in public forests would be eased.
Since the ban, the cost of building has been going up, with timber and poles be-coming scarce and thus more expensive.
Mr Tobiko also called for a review on the selection of sawmills permitted to log in public forests before the ban is lifted.