Updated by Faith Barbara Namagembe at 1124 EAT on Tuesday 14th March 2023.
Entebbe airport police have burst a drug trafficking racket involving one of their own, security and immigration officials.
The police seized a consignment of 9.8 kilograms of cocaine on March 1 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 Florence Awino were arrested in connection with the incident. The drugs were being trafficked by a Nigerian national, Raphael Pius Madu who was travelling on passport no. B0041124.
According to the charge sheet, the 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 1, 2023, at the arrivals hold baggage screening point at the passenger terminal building in Entebbe airport, Wakiso district, without lawful excuse, the suspects trafficked to Uganda from Brazil 9.8 kilograms of cocaine, a prohibited substance.
The suspects appeared today Monday before the Entebbe grade one magistrate Stella Okwong Paculal and were remanded until March 24 when they will reappear in court for the mention of their case. The suspects spent more than the constitutionally stipulated 48 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 advocates who showed up to represent the suspects, notable among these was the former director of public prosecutions, McDousman Kabega known by state prosecutors as a no-nonsense defense lawyer.
According to the London metropolitan police, 10 kilograms of cocaine can fetch up to £1 million (about Shs 4.5 billion). The value, according to experts, varies depending on the level of processing/purification and market territory.
Territories where penalties are highest 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 there and this makes supply very difficult and scarce thus the high prices.
Uganda was not so many 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 the cost of any amount of bail they are asked to pay.