A few days ago, Vera Akech was a free woman. She was a kids’ caretaker at a school in Kitgum, Northern Uganda.
But that was before she crossed paths with criminals. Currently, she is detained awaiting possession of prohibited goods charges.
Akech’s troubles started on January 22, 2018 when she allegedly attempted to sell three tusks of Ivory.
She was netted by the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) Enforcement teams based at Corner Kamdini and Karuma check point following a tip-off.
A day earlier, according to a team member, a tipster alerted them about a person who was selling Ivory.
The sale of Ivory is banned internationally; it is listed on the Convention in International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
“A meeting to plan how to execute the mission was convened. It was agreed that the one team member would arrest the suspects while another would masquerade as Jefferson Olindi, an Ivory dealer,” Vincent Seruma stated.
Before she was arrested, the ‘tools of trade’- vehicles, plain clothed security personnel and Olindi – the buyer, were assembled.
In a vehicle without a URA logo, the team set off for Kitgum, Northern Uganda where the seller awaited them, Seruma, the spokesperson said.
‘Olindi’ had travelled earlier to meet the seller, who it later emerged, was a woman. Four hours later, they were in Kitgum.
Smelling a rat, Akech reportedly took “Olindi” on a “tour” of Kitgum. Realising her trickery, one of the officers was asked to follow the vehicle she and “Olindi” traveled in.
Moments later, following assurance by “Olindi”, the vehicle halted at a secluded spot in Oryang Ojuma where the transaction would occur.
There, said Seruma, “Olindi” was taken to a thicket where he beamed on seeing the goods-Ivory.
Due to lack of a weighing scale, “Olindi” and the seller estimated the weight to be 15 kilograms and the cost US$ 700.
“Soon, one of the security personnel signaled colleagues that the exchange was ongoing,” Seruma stated, adding that “Olindi’’ gave Akech sh500, 000 in denominations of sh5, 000.
No sooner had she began to count the money, than she was surrounded. Realizing that she was in trouble, Akech fled but could not outrun the URA team.
On searching the thicket, three pieces of ivory weighing nine kilograms were recovered.
Akech is a caretaker in a primary school in Kitgum. According to her statement, she got the Ivory from criminals said to be based in Kidepo, North Eastern Uganda. There is a National Park in Kidepo.
According to Seruma, a file regarding the matter was sanctioned and awaited court allocation. She will face charges of possession of prohibited items under the East African Community Customs Management Act.
The incident was the second in a month. Earlier, the same URA teams impounded two tusks of Ivory.
URA has severally thwarted the sale, importation and exportation of Ivory at borders including Entebbe International Airport.
By Herbert Ssempogo, Media Unit & Corporate Affairs-URA