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More bank officials arrested as new details emerge on the 90 billion BoU scandal

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SIX top officials from Bank of Uganda (BOU) were on Wednesday arrested and questioned by Police and State House Anti-Corruption Unit over issues related to the transfer of currency from France. According to sources, the officials are from the departments of currency and legal.

The arrests follow anomalies found in the BOU consignment at Entebbe International Airport in early May. The money was flown to Entebbe from Liege Airport in France on April 27 aboard Ms. Kuene Nagel cargo plane. Other reports had indicated that they had been arrested over the printing of excess money to the tune of sh90b.

Among those arrested are Dr. Barenzi, the deputy director in charge of operations who led the team that flew to France to pick the consignment of sh350b packed in 20 pallets. Barenzi reportedly represented Charles Malinga, BOU’s executive director operations, who was on leave. “It appears the plane they chartered to carry the money made a deal to carry extra cargo for 13 different clients, among them the UN. There was no extra money printed,” said a source.

The head of State House AntiCorruption Unit, Lt Col Edith Nakalema, confirmed the investigation but declined to give details. She said it was in relation to issues of procurement and supply. “Yes, the unit, together with the director CID, went into the bank two days ago, because we are investigating issues to do with procurement and supply,” she said, without mentioning the type of supplies.

In a statement issued later by Nakalema, she said they were working together with the CID and in conjunction with the Bank of Uganda to carry out special investigations into a matter pertaining to the bank’s procurement and supply chain activities.

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“The investigation is being carried out following an invitation by the governor of Bank of Uganda and in close co-operation with the governor’s office,” Nakalema said. She said the matter under investigation involves a recent procurement consignment.

A number of senior bank personnel, customs and Civil Aviation Authority personnel are being questioned. Nakalema said BOU operations remain intact and uninterrupted. BOU deputy governor Louis Kasekende said he was not on the ground and, therefore, could not comment.

“I am out of the country. I am not on the ground,” he said, referring Saturday Vision to Charity Mugumya, the director communications. Mugumya said the officers were still assisting with investigations. “It was not a raid as such. The BOU requested the anti-corruption unit to investigate after the governor was notified of the anomalies in a BOU consignment,” she said.

Documents reviewed by the customs department and the Civil Aviation Authority showed that private business people and the UN took advantage and loaded their cargo on the chartered plane in an apparent bid to cut costs.

“The officers of BOU who went to receive the money saw the chartered plane had carried extra luggage. After signing for the money, they notified the governor, who in turn wrote to State House to intervene,” said a source.

The 13 clients included Mandela Millers (Light wall panels), USAID (entomology equipment), Jamani Investments Ltd (Sundry and X-ray equipment), Charles Mbire (Deboric Adhesive) and the UN which had the largest consignment of lead-acid batteries and converters. Others were USAID with human blood reagents, Amptech (U) Ltd with pumps and accessories and Ministry of Health with donated mobile supplies. “So far, investigations with the Civil Aviation Authority and customs have revealed that these were the extra five pallets and not extra money as is being alleged,” explained a source.

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“However, investigations continue and consequently, a number of officials at Bank of Uganda, customs and Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) are under investigation.

Security noted that a red flag was raised at the airport by URA of the excess pallets aboard the chartered plane, which some BOU officials claimed were personal items. URA insisted on verifying the bill of lading to ascertain whether the extra boxes had been cleared.

According to Saturday Vision (published by New Vision Media), it was learnt that security agencies had secured vital CCTV recordings at the airport to try and review, with the aim of identifying those that picked the pallets.

Bank of Uganda has been in the spotlight over mismanagement and corruption. Last year, BOU was investigated for closing seven banks including Crane Bank. The investigation was done by Parliament’s committee on commissions statutory authorities and state enterprises and a report released. Parliament faulted BOU for breaching the law in the closure of the banks.

The report by the then committee chairperson, Abdu Katuntu, recommended that all central bank officials who failed to execute their duties in accordance with the law should be penalized.