The thought of a Judge gavel, handcuffed wrists and the penalties that come with smuggling are perhaps the least of worries for Abdu Ofuba,39. He is not about to blur his ambition of the “get-rich-quick” mission with smuggling.
From reports, Ofuba is a notorious offender who often uses porous routes through Busia, Nakasongala and Masindi till he finds his way to Kampala. Unfortunately, on February 18th the speed of Ofuba’s Toyota Wish could not match the URA surveillance operations. He was netted escaping through Soroti.
Ofuba was found in possession of 202 rolls of smuggled textile fabrics which translates to about 6,800square meters of textiles. These textiles were intercepted being smuggled into the country through Busia.
According to Geoffrey Balamaga, the Manager Enforcement Operations, Ofuba risks imprisonment of 5 years once proved guilty.
URA’s Geoffrey Balamaga displaying some of the smuggled textile fabrics to journalists. In cuffs is smuggler, Abdu Ofuba. Photo/ Florence Namuganza
Ofuba ’s story is not an isolated one. As part of URA ’s continued anti-smuggling operations countrywide, a number of similar rackets have been unearthed to protect society against harmful products and encourage fair competition.
“Goods if smuggled into the country, they do not pay tax and are sold cheaper than those that pay taxes,” Balamaga emphasized on how smuggling costs the country.
In another operation last week, URA intercepted over 15 consignments countrywide, and among the major inceptions was a truck that entered Uganda through Elegu. This truck was intercepted along the Gulu-Kampala highway with 320 cartons of chewing tobacco called Mijaj. This particular brand is a health risk to the smokers as it causes heart disease and lung cancer which eventually lead to death. It is obvious that these risks are a no bother to the owner whose “gold mine” was hacked by URA enforcement officials.
Balamaga opening one of the cartons of Mijaj (L) and Fred Tamale, the driver of the Mijaj smuggling truck (R). Photo/ Florence Namuganza
Just like all offenders, the driver who was in charge of the truck at the time of interception of the tobacco will be charged in Courts of law for offences related to possession and transportation of smuggled contraband goods contrary to section 199 and 200 respectively of the East African Customs Community Management Act.
Another consignment containing 140 cartons of body creams was intercepted at the Gateway bus terminal. These creams are bleaching agents that comprise mercury and hydroquinone dangerous to the skin.
For the creams, investigations are ongoing to discover the owner of the items before his goods are forfeited and penalized.
Now with URA’s continued vigilance, smugglers are also not short of tricks. A different truck was impounded with concealed goods hidden under empty crates of beer. Here, 11,000 square meters of fabrics and 101 used computers were discovered. All these items were imported into the country illegally.
For Balamaga, the importation of used computers is prohibited and therefore they will be forfeited while for the textiles, URA will undertake the offence process.
“Investigations are still ongoing and once they are concluded, suspects will be paraded before courts of law so that justice prevails. We urge all transporters to desist from facilitating their drivers into such habits because once goods are intercepted there are far reaching consequences not only to the owners of the products but the transporters involved,” Balamaga explained.
Uganda Revenue Authority therefore wishes to retaliate its commitment to fighting smuggling of all sorts and liberating Uganda from economic saboteurs engaging in illicit trade. The general public is encouraged to report to URA all suspicious trade practices in their areas to enable URA create a level trading ground for all legitimate Traders.