Law slams brakes on armoured car sales

Tough rules on acquisition of bullet-proof vehicles has slowed down demand for the specialised cars in Kenya amid rise in violent crime and concern for personal safety.

Dealers said security law changes made last December requiring owners of armoured vehicles to get clearance of the National Police Service has dented the appeal of what used to be a brisk business.

“We stopped selling armoured units in April after the demand suddenly fell very low,” Toyotsu Auto Mart Kenya managing director Daisuke Toyooka told the Business Daily.

Toyotsu, a second-hand car dealer and subsidiary of Toyota Kenya, had early last year touted its bullet-proof Landcruiser VX 100s as potential growth area amid rising cases of insecurity.

On Wednesday, Inspector General Joseph Boinnet tightened the rules further when he directed assemblers, manufacturers and buyers of armoured vehicles to seek certificates of approval.

“All persons who possess armoured vehicles must therefore with immediate effect, declare to the Inspector General, National Police Service and the Kenya Revenue Authority for further action,” he said in a notice.

“Similarly, any importation of such vehicles must be done in strict compliance with the law. Those who contravene the Act are guilty of an offence.”

Nairobi-based Armomax Kenya and Toyotsu are among the car dealers with bullet-proof units in Kenya.

In 2012, UK-based Osprea Logistics was to set up a S.5 billion plant in Mombasa to assemble armoured cars and military trucks but the plan failed.

The firm, whose regional offices are in South Africa, announced plans to assemble the units under Mamba brand — which is commonly used by Africa Union peacekeepers, private contractors in Iraq and several African countries.

Security Laws (amendment) Act 2014 1A states that: “No person shall manufacture, assemble, purchase, acquire or have in his possession an armoured vehicle unless he holds a certificate issued under this Act.”

In the past, armoured cars were only shipped in by pre-ordering. Currently, they are mostly used by cash-in-transit firms and security personnel.

Experts have hailed the tightening of rules on armoured vehicles saying the move was driven by the need to prevent criminals from using them to commit crime.

“The restrictions on import and possession of bullet-proof vehicles is totally logical. The required permits will prevent criminals and terrorists from using them to perpetrate crime,” said Andrew Franklin, a Nairobi-based security expert.

He said unrestricted use could have emboldened criminals to steal the units or sneak them into the country, in what could result in more terror attacks.

He said the Kenyan market is largely saddled with B6 category of armoured vehicles for civilians whose body can withstand bullets fired from AK-47 rifles and grenade attacks.