Our investigators have unearthed a cartel of Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) customs staff and staff from the National Bureau of Standards (UNBS), who are conniving to smuggle Kenyan Kay salt into Uganda.
This is going on even after President Yoweri Museveni cautioned URA officials about the rampant corruption and tax evasion in the country.
Museveni issued the warning in his speech during the commemoration of the 2020 Heroes’ Day, shortly after which he made impromptu changes in URA by firing several senior Commissioners at the tax body.
However, despite Museveni cracking a whip at URA, our investigators reveal that there is still ‘Kawuukumi’ weevils especially among customs officials at Uganda’s porous borders, who often connive with smugglers to smuggle goods into Uganda untaxed or at time after paying under declared dues, which makes government lose billions of shillings in tax shortages.
Investigators noted that this impunity in tax evasion is executed under the noses of UNBS, a government agency responsible for the formulation, promotion of the use of, and the enforcement of standards in protection of the environment, public health and safety.
Top on the list of products being smuggled into Uganda under the watchful eye of customs and UNBS staff is Kay Salt, which is marked ‘For Sale In Kenya Only,’ although it has circulated all over Uganda. The same salt has since been donated and or sold to the COVID-19 Task Force, which also distributed it amongst Ugandans, without questioning why or how it found itself in Uganda!
Our Investigative reporters discovered that the importers / smugglers of Kay Salt are earning billions of shillings in profit while creating unfair competition for genuine licensed dealers in Uganda.
The investigation discovered that the salt is smuggled into Uganda in different ways including ‘panya reroutes’ by people bicycle riders and people with disabilities, who use their wheelchairs to carry several kilos a day by making several trips across the Ugandan and Kenyan borders.
It is also smuggled in big trucks that directly drive through the right paths after bribing customs officials along their way.
ISO Joins Investigation
This website has since established that after our reporters busted the Kay Salt smuggling cartel and published the story, operatives from the Internal Security Organisation (ISO) picked interest in the matter and have since started investigations into the same.
Our sources reveal that the ISO is investigating circumstances under which over 200kgs of Kay Salt meant to be consumed only in Kenya was donated as relief food items in Uganda after being purchased by money from the government of Uganda and donors.
Talking about the same matter, Fred Bamwine, the Mukono Resident District commissioner (RDC), said the Kay Salt was donated to the District COVID-19 Task Force by an undisclosed Non Government Organisation (NGO).
According to Bamwine, they (security operatives) suspect that the salt could also have been smuggled into the country through Lake Victoria.
Bamwine noted that the Food Relief Committee led by the former Interpol Director in Uganda Police Force, Fred Yiga, discovered a seal on the salt limiting its consumption to only Kenyans, which prompted them to withhold it as they carry out investigations into how it reached Uganda.
Commenting about the same matter, Frank Mpaulo, the Mukono District ISO officer, said intelligence teams have started investigating how the Kay Salt entered in Uganda and was donated to the COVID-19 Task Force, noting that their findings will inform their next course of action in their investigation.
From Mbale Dostrict, our investigators continued to Katosi Landing Site in Mukono District, where Fred Gonja, the Secretary Katosi Landing Site, said it possible some people are smuggling goods like salt into the country using the lake and as a result, they’ve not only evaded taxes and other import duties, but also caused excruciating losses to legal brands on the market as their market sales have since declined by over 60%.
Gonja said that; “Sometimes people run out of fuel on the lake and that is when they cross into the country. Many come unnoticed and that’s when maybe even goods can be smuggled by traders.”
Besides Kay Salt, the Kenya based Krystaline Salt Factory also produces Habari Salt, which investigators learnt that is also smuggled into the country at time using the entry points at the Kenya-Uganda Busia and Malaba borders.
When our undercover reporters asked how this Kay Salt is smuggled into Uganda, they were told by one of the agents of Krystalline salt at border who preferred anonymity that; “Yeah! True all of us here at the border sale this salt [holds a packet in his hands], since it is smuggled, it is cheaper, so…..we are earning more at least, since we buy it cheaply and sale in different packages and quantities.”
Our investigators thus discovered that Kay Salt, the producers of Krystalline Salt Limited, are not only evading URA import taxes and other fundamental duties but also breaching URA importing requirements that include: Import declaration, Content particulars, Suppliers invoice, Documented evidence carriage of goods, Customs value declaration, Compliance information, Good release order evidence etc.
Besides the above, one wonders how these smugglers manage to sneak the salt past UNBS staff who are supposed to ascertain the quality of all products that are supposed to be sold in Uganda and prohibit those meant for consumption in other countries from crossing our borders.