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Chinese nationals arrested in Athi River chang’aa factory raid

Saturday August 17 2019

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Two Chinese nationals were arrested in Athi River on August 16, 2019 during a raid at a chang'aa brewing factory. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

VINCENT ACHUKA
By VINCENT ACHUKA
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The discovery of thousands of litres of chang’aa and busaa at a residence owned by Chinese nationals in Athi River has confirmed fears of the existence of industrial-scale manufacture of illicit brews just days after photos of the bottled alcohol started making rounds online.

On Friday, police officers acting on a tip off from members of the public raided a house at Green Park estate where they confiscated over 3,000 litres of the illicit brews and arrested two Chinese nationals.

“A liquor processing plant was also found in their homestead,” said the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI).

Mr Wang Yalan and Ms Wang Haijian, who are currently detained at the Athi River police station, were also found in possession of 1,000 litres of methanol.

The chemical, which is used as a solvent in manufacturing, can get people drunk but is a deadly poison that has in the past been blamed for causing death and blindness among consumers of illicit alcoholic drinks.

BLINDNESS

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Methanol is so poisonous that a teaspoonful of the chemical in its pure form is enough to burn the optic nerve and cause blindness.

Public health experts have in the past warned that just three tea spoonful of methanol are potentially fatal.

And, while swoops on chang’aa distilleries are common place in the rural areas and slums, Friday’s find could be the first time police were stumbling on an industrial-scale manufacture of the drink.

“A search also led to the recovery of several sacks of sorghum and rice, drums of sorghum mixtures kept to ferment and several huge water tanks,” said the DCI.

WORK PERMIT

Since last week, there have been photos doing rounds on the internet showing bottled chang’aa whose source still remains unknown.

Mr Yalan and Ms Waijan will be presented in court in Machakos on Monday to answer to, among other charges, running an illegal distillery.

Police sources intimated that the two were also being investigated on whether they are in the country legally.

Cases of Chinese nationals caught engaging in unlawful activities in Kenya have been on the rise. In June, Interior Secretary Fred Matiang’i deported seven Chinese nationals found trading illegally in Gikomba market.