“Once a thief, always a thief,” goes an old African adage which demystifies how complicated it is to abandon a certain character or behaviour by an individual.
This explains why Courts of Judicature most times downplay narratives by culprits arraigned before judges as “first time offenders” and therefore should be exonerated. They are either sentenced or given a lenient punishment. The aim is teach them a lesson while in prison.
The disadvantage of a lenient sentence, misleads. Often, the offender tends to repeat the crime.
In other words, from lenient sentences culprits are groomed into hardcore criminals.
This best describes a syndicate of three Indian nationals spearheaded by Jigar Chandarana a director of Wellex Hardware who accepted the criminal liability of trading fictitious Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) invoice and causing final loss to government and the taxpayer.
This cartel has amassed a lot of money from the network by involving in new clients whom they sell the fake invoices and earn huge commission.
One of the beneficiaries of the syndicate is a renowned global engineering company China Railway No.3 Engineering Group Limited.
Information obtained reveals that China Railway No.3 Engineering Group Ltd claimed input VAT of UGX. 211,869,259 from fictitious purchases of UGX. 1,117,051,439, causing revenue loss to the government of Uganda. China Railway is a wholly owned subsidiary of China Railway Group Limited, one of the biggest construction enterprises in the world.
The company is also ranked among the Fortune Global 500 and is listed on the Shanghai and Hong Kong stock exchanges.
Some of the beneficiaries of this Indian tax crime syndicate include China Railway No.3 Engineering Group Ltd (CR3).
— Tax Crime Watch Africa (@TaxCrimeWatch) June 16, 2023
Jigar and his accomplices had declared these fake invoices as output VAT between 2018-2023.
They ran out of luck on last Wednesday when security raided their business Wellex Hardware Limited and arrested them following a probe into the tax affairs of Wellex Hardware Limited which began in 2022 after URA received information about an Indian businessman suspected of trading tax invoices among companies registered for VAT purposes.
The data also revealed that the directors of Wellex Hardware Limited were at the top of this syndicate, where they made sales to their clients but generated and sold several tax invoices to beneficiaries for a commission.
They were found guilty of generating and selling fictitious invoices by the Anti-Corruption Court in Kololo.
They were convicted on five counts of making false statements to a tax officer, an offense contrary to Section 58(1)(a) of the Tax Procedures Code Act, 2014. Each defendant was ordered to pay a fine of UGX 20,000,000 or face five years imprisonment in default.
URA’s lawyers were able to secure UGX. 102,878,055 in taxes, which Wellex Hardware Limited agreed to pay in full as assessed.
But should these foreign criminals be let off the hook for paying a fine of shs 20 million, such peanuts compared to the money the cartel has made from the illegal business? Or they should be deported as a precautionary measure since there is no guarantee that they will not repeat the offence.
URA officials this website talked about the matter said, they had succeeded in arresting and also recovering money in form of taxes from the culprits.
They referred us to Ministry of Internal Affairs, Immigration department for a comment on whether these criminals shouldn’t be deported as a means of mitigating crime in the country.
Simon Mundei, the spokesperson of Internal Affairs, couldn’t pick our repeated calls.