The Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mr Martins Okoth Ochola, about a month ago, suspended former Kampala South Regional Police Commander Siraje Bakaleke.
Mr Bakaleke, who is at the rank of Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP), is under investigation on allegations of extorting $400,000 (Shs1.4b) from two South Korean nationals.
ACP Bakaleke was suspended alongside four other officers, including Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Herbert Akankwasa, Detective Inspector of Police (IP) Robert Ray Asiimwe, Constable Drover Robert Ayebare and Constable Kenneth Zirintusa.
IGP Ochola reportedly ordered that ACP Bakaleke be charged in a criminal court alongside his juniors as opposed to an earlier plan by former IGP Kale Kayihura, who had suggested that he was to be tried at police disciplinary level.
The police spokesperson, Mr Emilian Kayima, while addressing the media a month ago, said Mr Bakaleke and six others face five capital offences, including unlawful deportation of two Koreans, obtaining money by false pretence, aggravated robbery using guns, kidnap and theft.
Mr Kayima added that there are two case files probing the alleged crime committed by its officers; one by Professional Standards Unit (PSU) and the other by Criminal Investigation Department (CID).
“These are serious crimes that we are investigating to conclusion. We have two files in regard to these cases. One is being handled by PSU for disciplinary action and the other will be taken to a criminal court. Our investigations are progressing very well and we only miss a statement from one suspect, who is yet to appear,” Mr Kayima said.
In his last act as IGP, Gen Kale Kayihura had transferred Mr Bakaleke to the directorate of Chief Police Commiserate (CPC) commanded by Assistant Inspector of Police (AIGP) Asan Kasingye, without title.
Gen Kayihura’s decision was seen as an attempt to protect him [Bakaleke] from senior police officers who often questioned why he had not been arrested even after being pinned by his juniors.
“When junior officers accused ACP Bakaleke of ordering them to extort the money from Koreans, police directors and Mr Ochola (then Gen Kayihura’s deputy) demanded his arrest and interrogation. Gen Kayihura declined, saying he was the most liked by Muslims and arresting him could be wrongly perceived by the Muslim community,” a source said.
Where it went wrong
Mr Bakaleke landed in trouble after four officers were intercepted at Entebbe airport unlawfully expatriating two Koreans; Mr Park Seunghoon and Mr Jang Shingu Un, from whom they had reportedly extorted Shs1.4b. The officers claimed they acted under ACP Bakaleke’s command.
The officers are said to have revealed to detectives at Criminal Investigation Directorate (CID) that ACP Bakaleke was the first person to learn about the Koreans’ gold deal and ordered his juniors to arrest them. They were arrested and reportedly taken to ACP Bakaleke’s office, then at Katwe Division Police headquarters from where he personally interrogated them and they told him how they wanted to buy gold.
Sources said Mr Bakaleke said he knew someone who could sell them gold. He arranged that the Koreans would meet the gold seller at Acacia Mall, but the Koreans were arrested when they went to meet the seller. They were put in cells for three days at Katwe Police Station as he ordered ASP Akankwasa to process their air tickets to fly them out of the country.
“A detective who was given peanuts of the extorted money got angry and intimated the ordeal to the now disbanded Flying Squad Unit (FSU). He revealed all the details regarding the deal and he tipped them on the time when the Koreans were going to be sneaked out of the country. ACP Herbert Muhangi, then SFU commander, deployed officers at Entebbe airport and indeed the Koreans were rescued as they were about to be put on a plane,” a detective at Kampala Central Police Station said.
FSU officers recovered, among other exhibits, air tickets, passports of the Koreans nationals which had been given to them at the airport, and US dollars valued Shs1.8m and unspecified amount of Korean currency.
Reporting the case
Although sources say it was an angry officer who spilled the beans, other sources said victims reported the case to Ugandan authorities after they were being tossed around on getting their gold, thus prompting an investigation by FSU. One of the South Koreans allegedly told police officers at Acacia Mall that they were surrounded by security operatives, who put them on gunpoint and ordered them to hand over the money.
Mr Bakaleke recorded a statement at police PSU, in which he allegedly denied having knowledge of the deal. He is said to have stated that he learnt about the extortion case through ACP Muhangi, who called him inquiring on whether he was aware of an illegal repatriation of two Korean nationals.
However, sources said Park Seunghoon and Jang Shingu, in their statements, insisted that they had met Mr Bakaleke in his office.
IGP Ochola, upon learning the Koreans’ confession, reportedly tasked detectives at CID to include Mr Bakaleke on the list with other four officers destined to be charged in a criminal court.
“Mr Ochola had long ordered for ACP Bakaleke’s arrest but he was being shielded by Gen Kayihura because he was playing him politics in Kampala. Mr Ochola first ordered for his arrest when he started conducting night operations with journalists exposing officers sleeping on duty,” a source said.
While engaging prostitutes at Nansana Municipality at the peak of women killing in Wakiso, Gen Kayihura applauded Mr Bakaleke for exposing police officers sleeping on the job, whom he said were the reason criminals were taking advantage of to kill civilians.
Gen Kayihura said some people had asked him to penalize Mr Bakaleke [because] he was shaming the Force by exposing colleagues, yet to him, it was a good move to keep officers awake.
Asked whether FSU recovered the Shs1.4b, Mr Muhangi said: “That case was taken over by Kampala CID.”
However, Kampala Metropolitan CID commander, SSP Johnson Ola Dale, said he was not in position to divulge details since it could jeopardise ongoing investigations. A source at the investigations desk at KMP and CID headquarters said police has so far recovered only Shs38m out of the Shs1.4b allegedly extorted from South Koreans.
The four officers who had been detained at Nalufenya have since been released on bond as investigations continue.