Over 500 smuggled Smart Phone recovered from Entebbe Airport

A traveller aboard an inbound flight from Dubai has been nabbed with “fake hips” that were discovered to be smuggling smart phones. The lady discovered that in fact “her hips did lie” when 40 pieces of phones were found strapped to her hips and in her bosom, hidden beneath several layers of clothing.

The URA Entebbe Enforcement team recently launched operation Kwata Essimu acting on intelligence from informers in Dubai that passengers have devised new creative and sophisticated ways of concealing phones to avoid enforcement & Non-Intrusive Inspection (NII) scanner detection.

It was noted that some passengers were now changing their known routes from Uganda Airlines and Ethiopian Airlines to Fly Dubai, hoping to catch officers unaware.

Scrutiny was intensified on all inbound flights; applying surveillance of the belts, NII cargo scanners, meticulous inspection of luggage, observation and interview of travellers.

The team uncovered another notable concealment in the form of a false bottom in a box where a review of the scanner image showed that there was a meticulously crafted shroud of dark blue at the bottom of the box that contained a stash of 44 pieces of smartphones.

“These results are fruits of the collaborative teamwork from all the teams that support operations at the airport. This has yielded into a UGX 1.7 Billion recovery in taxes in the last 28 days, the highest ever collected in one month,” noted Simon Esunget, the Ag. Manager Customs at Entebbe International Airport.

More ingenious hiding spots were unearthed where phones disguised as everyday items like perfume boxes, flowers, and shoes, embedding within clothing, motor vehicle spares and even cleverly concealed within electronic devices like car radios.

In the last one-month of the operation, URA has recovered a staggering 506 phones worth over USD 15,000 from various passengers arriving from Dubai.

Verification revealed 44PCS of New Infinix Hot 301; 36pcs of Oppo Smart phones; 20pcs of Refurbished Google Pixel 7 Pro; 8pcs of used Aquos Shg03 phones; 34pcs of used Samsung Galaxy Note phones (9, 10,10+,8); 25pcs of Samsung Galaxy A54; and 18pcs of used Samsung Galaxy Note 8 were recorded.

Another set of phones recovered included 8pcs of used IPhones, 76pcs of Sony Xperia; 124pcs of assorted refurbished Samsung Galaxy Phones (S8/S9/S9+/S10/S10+); 8pcs of New Note 30 Pro; 15pcs of used Aquos Shg03 Sense 1 smart phones; 50pcs of refurbished Aquos Shg03; and 40pcs of refurbished Vivo Ultra 24 smart phones.

In accordance with Sections 200 and 203 of the EACMMA, an importer found to be in the act of concealing goods faces up to five years in prison or a fine equal to half of the dutiable worth of the items in question.

Investment in technologies like NII isn’t just a modern convenience but a vital necessity that is essential in locating hidden objects and stopping illegal activity because of its sophisticated imaging and analytic capabilities.

“I briefed the airport security committee of our operations and enlisted their support, especially in sharing information. At a strategic level, we will continue efforts to enroll all airlines on the passenger data platform, which once implemented 100%, will ease targeting,” added Esunget.

URA’s spokesperson, Ibrahim Bbossa, urged clients to comply with procedures that have been created to facilitate trade. He added URA is continuously evolving in technology and investing in automation of its processes to curb such vices in order to create a levelled marketplace for Ugandans.

By Annet Nantongo, MMU/PCA

Additional reporting by Priscilla Najjuma Mary, Entebbe Customs

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