The Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) Customs Team has busted a racket of smugglers who load cigarettes in trucks and conceal them in sacks of charcoal to Kampala.
URA says this group had a specific residence on the Democratic Republic of Congo side at which the loading was done on a weekly basis. According to the tax body, it is obvious that the monies they were already earning could not blur their ambition to stop smuggling because they had mastered the escape routes and deployed their own intelligence.
However, the antennas of the URA intelligence networks were raised further to end this “get-rich-quick “mission. And indeed, last Monday was the fateful day. The group loaded as usual but the truck driver could not go further than Koboko district. The porous route known as busia in Koboko had been surrounded.
By 10:00pm that day, the URA team swung into action and impounded the truck of registration number UBA 408U in Koboko town. The driver was immediately arrested.
During interrogation, Patrick Kachope, the truck driver said he was on his way to Kampala to drop the goods at the KK terminal in Arua Park. He had also been promised payment of Shs2,500,000 once this task was executed.
The truck was later driven to the Oraba station and upon first verification, 80 bags of charcoal were discovered stacked at the door as a way of concealing the cigarettes.
The second undertaking of verification revealed: 240 Bags of125 Bombers of super match cigarettes made in Uganda and marked for export totaling to 600 cartons of 50 Bombers and 4 Bags containing a total of 10 cartons of Oris cigarettes.
According to Philip Ofubo, the URA customs officer behind “the catch” the country lost Shs700 million of revenue. And since cigarettes are contrabands, they will be destroyed to rid the market of other prohibited products like; cosmetics, used computers, used fridges and polythene bags among others.
Burning the illicit cigarettes ensures visibility in the fight against such illegal activities and ensures the products cannot return to market. It also acts as a deterrent measure to perpetrators to discourage them from engaging in such illegal trade due to the high risk and losses incurred.
Julius Nkwasire, the Assistant Commissioner Enforcement urged the public to hire credible persons especially clearing agents.
“If you have a truck, be sure of the driver you are recruiting and guide him. Keep checking them and ensure they offload goods within the customs controlled area,” Nkwasire warned.
He added that failure to do so would attract penalties and the affected trucks would be forfeited to government.
For now, URA has continued to intensify intelligence guided operations leveraging on the use of Non-Intrusive Inspection technology at the border points and field intelligence enforcement operations.
URA is also intensifying tax education awareness, especially on the dangers of smuggling to the individual, the community and the economy.