Thirteen port officials charged in Kenyan corruption clampdown

MOMBASA, Kenya (Reuters) - Thirteen port and customs officials were charged on Wednesday with stealing cargo containers and aiding tax evasion on freight at Kenya's Mombasa port, part of a drive to clamp down on corruption and boost efficiency at the hub. Mombasa acts as a trade gateway for much of East Africa. But neighboring countries have often complained about corruption and the slow processing of cargo. The port replaced its managing director and five other senior managers in February as part of a wider bid to streamline customs procedures. A court in Mombasa charged 10 men and three women on Wednesday with theft of cargo, "aiding procurement" of goods that had not gone through proper customs procedures, tampering with computerized customs systems and other charges. They denied all charges and were released on a bond of 500,000 shillings ($5,000) each. The next hearing is on Nov. 15. The port management said in February all transit cargo through Mombasa would be cleared in the port to curb tax evasion and smuggling. Previously, some containers heading beyond Kenya were cleared at private freight station outside the port. (Reporting by Joseph Akwiri; Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Andrew Heavens)