Makerere University disowns staff Involved in fake gold deal

Friday January 12 2018

Some of the suspected gold fraudsters arrested

Some of the suspected gold fraudsters arrested from Physical Chemistry lab at Makerere University. AGENCIES PHOTO  


Makerere University has distanced its self from individual staffs from the Physical Chemistry lab who were involved in the fake gold scam on Wednesday evening.

The implicated staff members are Mutenywa, a Lab Assistant and Budigi Ruharara, the Chief technician in the Chemistry Lab at Makerere University.
The two are at large for their alleged involvement in defrauding a South American businessman up to US$ 200,000. In a statement issued to staff on Thursday, Dr John Wasswa, the Head of the Department of Chemistry in the College of Natural Sciences at Makerere described the incident as "unfortunate.".
He says Budigi, who is retiring from the university, used an emergency exit door to access the Physical Chemistry Lab with three non-university staff to analyse certain samples of gold to ascertain their authenticity for possible transaction with an investor.

Apparently, the investor was being used by Assi Soubhi, a resident of Bogota in Colombia and a dealer in rare and precious gemstones who had been defrauded by the same group three years ago.
The two had tipped off police, which was monitoring the proceedings from a close location. He says no sooner had the suspects entered the laboratory than police swung into to arrest them, creating a scuffle that prompted the officers to shoot in the air.

Dr Wasswa explains that Budigi, whose post retirement contract had just expired and was due to hand over office this week escaped. Police arrested five non-university staff including a woman who were waiting in the parking yard at the department.

The suspects include Stellah Kalungi Dindi, David Kironde, Ronald Kamugisha, Nasser Kibirige and Yazidi Kabonge. Detectives from the CID Headquarters in Nsambya returned to Makerere University today to record another statement from Dr Wasswa in addition to another recorded from Dr Gabriel Nullfield Kasozi, whose office can only be accessed through the lab that police has sealed off as a scene of crime.
According to Dr Wasswa, the transactions have been happening without the knowledge of the department.
"I must say that Mr Budigi has been carrying out these activities as an individual and the department was oblivious of this," Dr Wasswa states.
Asked whether the department has the capacity to test the authenticity of gold, Prof Muhammad Ntale, a Chemist from the same Department, said everyone with basic knowledge of Chemistry can carry out such tests.
"As long as someone has ever studied basic chemistry and really has been serious, he or she can be able to test this. As a chemist, gold is a substance that doesn't react and that is why it is easy to test," Prof Ntale told this reporter.

He added: "Analysis of Gold is not a complicated thing. Only that from the best of my knowledge is that the department does not do such kind of activity but I know we have the knowledge. Even if you were the one, you would need only a three-days training to learn how to test it."

Prof Ntale argues that what could have been a problem was transacting the business without the knowledge of the department and university authorities.

"Where the confusion comes from is that someone brings a sample of gold and when they are given a letter about that sample, they use it even for other things that may not have been tested. You may find that these people were writing general letters without specifying the amount that was tested," Prof Ntale said.

Investigations by this reporter show that Budigi has been in University service for more than 40 years. Staffs who did not want to disclose their identity told this reporter that by the time of the shooting, Budigi was still in the Chemistry building but somehow managed to get away since he had keys to access the building.