The Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) has busted a smuggling racket and seized more than eight tones of high-value pens, estimated at more than sh300m in tax revenue.
According to the NewVision, the notorious racket was operating between Kampala and the border towns of Busia and Malaba in eastern Uganda and is believed to be collaborating with high profile individuals in the security and government circles. The URA assistant commissioner for enforcement, Julius Nkwasire, said approximately 8 tones of high-profile pens were seized along the Mukono – Kayunga Road on Tuesday, en route to a hideout in Kololo, Kampala.
The pens were aboard a Toyota Canter, registration number UAE 050F, manned by two men in military camouflage, who later turned out to be fake.
“The lorry was stopped at a URA checkpoint, and the occupants were asked to produce supporting documents for the cargo they had. Instead, they hurriedly sped off and were cut off a little distance ahead. The other occupants ran away, and the driver was arrested,” Nkwasire said.
He said on checking the truck, it was found loaded with smuggled high-value pens with a tax estimate of more than sh300m. He said investigations are already going on to bring to justice, all who are involved in the smuggling racket that has cost the country billions over the years.
URA’s annual performance report for 2020/21 showed that the tax body was able to recover more than sh67b from recovered -smuggled goods, from approximately 5,823 seizures.
Nkwasire said over the years, smuggling has been evolving, taking new shapes and dimensions, including the use of documents and electronic systems to defraud the state of valuable tax resources.
He said, the taxman is, however, intensifying the fight against the smugglers, by beefing up its intelligence unit, installing more scanners at the border crossing points and sharing information with other government agencies and regional bodies.
He said URA has now intensified vigilance and border patrols and intelligence gathering along the borderline in the Eastern, Western and Northern regions.
Last year, URA registered a shortfall in customs collections to a tune of approximately sh495.48b against a target of sh8, 001.35b.
The Uganda People’s Defense Forces publicist (UPDF), Brig. Flavia Byekwaso said the army is working with the police to hunt all members of the said smuggling racket since it is believed to be dangerous to the public.
“These people have military attire, and yet they are not soldiers. They can use these items to commit a range of crimes, so they are a danger to the public. This is, however, a warning to all those using military gear illegally. We shall get you and prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law,” she said.
She said, the army will also work along URA to hunt for smuggling rackets that are using military gear to tarnish the good name of the UPDF.
She said once investigations are over, the two men that were arrested would be aligned in court, although it is not yet clear whether they will appear before a military or civilian court.
“We shall wait for guidance before producing them to answer for smuggling and illegal possession of military gear,” she said.