Thursday February 23 2017

Illegal ivory trade: UPDF soldiers convicted

UWA officials check ivory impounded at Entebbe

UWA officials check ivory impounded at Entebbe airport last year. FILE PHOTO  

By Betty Ndagire

KAMPALA. Two UPDF soldiers have been convicted by Buganda Road Chief Magistrate’s Court over illegal possession of 12 pieces of elephant tusks worth Shs129m.
The convicts are Cpl Collins Kamugisha of the Special Forces Command (SFC) and Maj Allan Rutagira, attached to Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI) Mbuya Army Headquarters.
They were found guilty of unlawful possession of protected species, accepting transfer of protected species, and conspiracy to commit an offence of being in possession of protected species.
Appearing in a session before the magistrate Ms Gladys Kamasanyu, she read a judgement stating most of the evidence from the prosecution witnesses pinned the suspects to the offence.
“…some of prosecution witnesses who were the arresting officers testified that the suspects tried to flee. That, was not conduct of an innocent person,”Ms Kamasanyu held.
“The suspects are hereby convicted and their bail is as well cancelled, they should be produced before court on February 27, for sentencing.”
Among the witnesses testimonies court considered to convict the duo, included that of Mr Francis Taka, a detective inspector of police attached to the Police Flying Squad, who testified that on March 26, 2016, he led a team of police officers and Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) staff to Hotel Africana to arrest the suspects.
“Two members on my team, who were police informers, disguised as buyers and entered the Hotel Africana premises. They moved close to a red Audi car where Cpl Kamugisha and Maj Rutagira showed the items,” Mr Taka said before presenting the elephant tusks before court as an exhibit.
He explained that upon the assumed buyers being shown the ivory, they alerted the other police officers on the team who quickly arrested the two soldiers with the ivory. However, the third suspect, who was with the duo, fled.

bndagire@ug.nationmedia.com

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