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Uganda’s Entebbe Airport Police have burst a drug trafficking racket involving one of their own and immigration officials.
According to information obtained by Uganda Radio Network (URN), the Airport Police seized a consignment of 9.8 Kilograms of Cocaine on March 1, 2023, whose destination is yet to be established.
The consignment had been cleared by security and immigration staff, disguised as coffee packets, according to Airport security sources.
As a result, Denis Mugabi Mwamba, an immigration officer, Dan Banan, an Internal Security Officer, Caroline Orishaba, an immigration assistant, and Police Constable No. 46879 PC Florence Awino were arrested in connection with the incident.
The drugs were being trafficked by Nigerian national Raphael Pius Madu who was traveling on Passport No. B0041124.
He was picked up on March 1st, 2023 after entering the country. Information about which airline he used to enter the country was not availed nor was the one he was supposed to board to get out.
According to the charge sheet, Airport Police slapped Madu with two counts of unlawful possession of psychotropic substances and illegal trafficking of psychotropic substances contrary to Sections 4(1) and 2(9) of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Control) Act of 2016.
The implicated airport staff were only charged with the second count.
On count two under which Madu was charged with all the other accused, it was alleged that on March 1st, 2023 at the Arrivals Hold Baggage Screening Point at the passenger terminal building in Entebbe Airport, without lawful excuse, the suspects trafficked to Uganda from Brazil 9.8 kilograms of Cocaine, a prohibited substance contrary to Section 5 of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Control) Act of 2016.
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The suspects appeared Monday before the Entebbe Magistrate Grade I Stella Okwong Paculal and were remanded until March 24th, 2023 when they will reappear in Court for the mention of their case.
The suspects spent more than the constitutionally stipulated forty-eight hours in custody before being brought to Court because investigators had to engage other government agencies for support.
The crime of drug trafficking usually involves government forensic experts to ascertain and confirm the nature of the substance under probe.
Okwong did not allow the suspects to plead to the charge, saying that she had no jurisdiction to do so.
This is a high-profile case, judging by the number of lawyers who showed up to represent the suspects, Notable among them, was the former director of Public Prosecutions, McDusman Kabega known by state prosecutors as a no-nonsense defense lawyer.
According to the London Metropolitan Police, ten kilograms of cocaine can fetch up to one million pounds or USD 1.205 million in street value or Uganda Shillings 4,469,800,617 (roughly Ushs 4.5 billion).
The value, according to experts, varies according to the level of processing/purification and market territory.
Territories where penalties are most severe fetch the highest prices.
For example, prices in China and other countries where death is the ultimate punishment on conviction fetch very high value in terms of money.
Few dealers are ready to risk their lives and this makes supply very difficult and scarce thus the high prices.
Uganda was years ago blacklisted as a major conduit of illicit drugs, forcing the government to enact a new law to improve its ratings in the global security community.
However, critics say the implementation has not seen much change as suspects get off the hook at a cost of any amount of bail they are asked to pay.