The hunt for extra printed currency
Details of this investigation have remained largely unreported. But relying on sources inside Nakalema’s unit, the police, and Bank of Uganda, The Independent has pieced together the events.
Apparently, Nakalema’s team did not start at BoU. They first went to Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) and had decided to work with Akullo’s CIID.
A source who is privy to the details told The Independent that when police officers arrived at URA to check the extra cargo from the BoU plane, they expected to open it and find extra printed money.
“It was clear, they were disappointed when they did not find the money,” the source noted.
Weeks later, the investigators visited BoU where they picked the eight officials and released two. Among those detained was the team that went to France comprising Francis Kakeeto, the Assistant Director Mbale Currency Centre and Fred Vito Wanyama, the BoU Verification Officer. These were interrogated for two days and released on Friday June 14.
At this point it was clear that the investigators were most interested in Kakeeto and Wanyama. It was, therefore, not surprising when they were re-arrested on June 19.
This time it was also together with Milton Baluku, the BoU official who headed the team that went to Entebbe Airport to pick the currency, and their boss, Charles Malinga, the Director Currency at BoU.
Another pointer to how the case was developing is that on June 21 it was only Kakeeto and Wanyama who appeared before the Anti-Corruption Court in Kampala on charges of corruption and abuse of office.
Prosecution alleges that Kakeeto and Wanyama on April 26, 2019 between France, Belgium and Entebbe International Airport allowed the inclusion of unauthorised cargo on a plane chartered by BoU.
They are also accused of corruptly neglecting to perform their duty when they failed to refute or report the inclusion of unauthorised cargo on the plane. At their first appearance in court, the duo denied the charges and Grade one Magistrate Herbert Asiimwe remanded them to Luzira Prison until June 25. When they reappeared they were joined in the dock with their boss, Malinga.
Initially, the investigation focused on Kakeeto and Wanyama because the two had on April 20, been nominated by Malinga, the Director Currency, to travel to Chantepie in northwest France, home of the currency printer Oberthur Fiduciaire.Kakeeto and Wanyama were to carry out quality assurance for the procurement of the currency.
They were to witness as the currency was loaded and even send photographic evidence to Kampala where another team would be waiting amidst tight security.
The cargo in question was 70 million currency notes of the UShs 5000 denomination with a value of Shs350 billion loaded in 1400 boxes, according to details from leaked documents.
That is a very heavy load because, if each note is about one gram, it means each of the 1400 boxes weighed about 50kg. Which means transporting the notes would require a minimum of seven 10 tonne trucks as each would carry 200 boxes maximum. In other words, this was a major logistics operation, even without factoring in the extra unauthorised cargo.
Kakeeto and Wanyama spent a week in France. As is the practice, they had been given a checklist. They were supposed to note each detail surrounding the printing, packing and loading of the currency.
According to insiders, this is a rigorous process. Officials are supposed to ensure that the ordered notes are packed in boxes. A certain amount of cash is supposed to fit in a box. Then a certain amount of boxes are supposed to fit on a single pallet.
The two officials were supposed to record the loading arrangement and communicate it back to Kampala such that the team waiting at Entebbe would use it to verify. This process is meant to ensure that BoU cargo is not tampered with at all along the way.
The cargo departed France on April 26 and arrived at Entebbe on April 27 at 8am.
Dickson Kateshumbwa, the URA Acting Commissioner General, said in a statement to journalists on Saturday June 15 that when the plane arrived, and as normal practice for sensitive cargo, customs facilitated clearance of the currency at the tarmac in presence of BOU officials, aviation security, and other security agencies.
He explained that the BoU consignment was then loaded on BOU vehicles and taken to Kampala with heavy security escort. The extra cargo, which belonged to other individuals, companies and organisations, he added, was cleared after paying taxes.
The BoU team that picked the currency was led by Milton Baluku.
Baluku was answerable to Dr. Natamba Bazinzi, the Assistant Director Administration Currency Department. Bazinzi was standing in for his boss, Charles Malinga who was the Contract Manager but away on leave. It is Malinga who selected Kakeeto and Wanyama to go to France.