Crime & Investigation

BoU Banknotes Cargo Saga: What Really Happened?

In April 2019, a chartered plane carrying new Uganda currency notes landed at Entebbe Airport.

On board were two Bank of Uganda (BoU) officials who had traveled to Germany to inspect the process of procuring the currency.

BoU routinely orders for new notes to replace damaged notes which are always taken out of circulation.

In Germany, BoU staff had to verify the quantity of notes printed and loaded on the plane destined to Uganda.

While loading the money on the plane, BoU staff observed consignments which were not part of the currency cargo.

On inquiry, they were informed by the management of the chartered aircraft that “these are our spare parts for the plane.”

Yet, BoU’s policy is that a chartered plane cannot carry anything else apart from printed money.

Entebbe

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On arrival at Entebbe, BoU staff also had to once again oversee the offloading of their currency cargo from the plane and loading it onto vans to the Central Bank headquarters in Kampala.

Also at the airport were Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) and Aviation Security officials.

BoU cargo left the airport under military escort to Kampala.

Little did BoU, URA and Aviation security realize they would be in hot soup in a couple of months over the ‘spare parts’ cargo on the plane.

According to a source, after BoU removed their currency from the plane, the ‘spare parts’ consignment stayed at the airport before being taken by an unknown person/s.

Luckily, at BoU, the staff who traveled to Germany indicated in their reports that they had another cargo of ‘spare parts’ on the aircraft.

This compelled BoU management to commence an independent investigation to resolve the matter since the owners of the aircraft flouted BoU guidelines on transportation of currency.

Somehow, State House’s Anti-corruption desk learnt about the matter. President Museveni responded by directing Edith Nakalema to investigate the incident.

Presidential spokesperson Don Wanyama said a statement on the matter would be issued at midday on Friday.

“Please be patient,” he told ChimpReports.

This investigative website understands that Nakalema dispatched his team to arrest several BoU officials in the currency and procurement sections to help in investigating the matter.

Police spokesperson, Fred Enanga said the law enforcement body was “providing support to Nakalema’s team which the lead agency” in the investigation.

The Civil Aviation Authority publicist, Vianney Luggya said he needed more time to crosscheck for facts.

“Bu there is no way cargo can just disappear from the airport,” he said. “This is a ground handling matter. Let me find out.”

A security official briefed about the investigation told us: “We really want to know what was in the consignment. Was it money? As of now we haven’t reached a decision. We are still interviewing people and also reviewing their statements,” a detective.

He added: “They were 25 consignments. Bank of Uganda took 20 of them. So what happened to the rest (5)? Where are they? Who took them? That’s the main focus of the investigation.”

Museveni concerned

President Museveni is taking the matter seriously as the consignment can’t be traced. He also is bothered that an unknown cargo could enter into Uganda via a plane chartered by BoU.

“The incident occurred in April. We don’t know who picked the consignment from this plane. The ground handling services will have a lot to explain,” added another official who preferred anonymity so as to speak freely.

The central bank’s major operations are always classified to minimise risks. But investigators suspect a case of possible tax evasion.

“Someone could have gone through BoU’s chartered plane to send cargo to Uganda to avoid taxes at the airport. If there was collusion with BoU staff, they would not have indicated an additional cargo in their reports. For us what we want is to know who picked that cargo from the airport and tell us what it was,” said an officer.

ChimpReports understands no money has been impounded as of now as alleged on social media.

Officials said they would make good use camera footage at the airport to establish the identity of the person/s who picked the suspicious cargo from the airport.

As of Friday morning, several BoU staff had been released. But Nakalema’s team were continuing to interrogate officials in URA and Aviation Security.

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