Suspect pins police on theft of UTL cables

Wednesday January 15 2020

Suspects. Mr Ibrahim Katabirwa (left) and his

Suspects. Mr Ibrahim Katabirwa (left) and his co-accused appear before the Specialised Utilities Wildlife and Standards Court in Kampala yesterday. Photo by Betty Ndagire 


One of four suspects accused of stealing Uganda Telecom Limited (UTL) copper cables stunned court yesterday when he revealed that police officers were part of the deal.

Mr Ibrahim Katabirwa, one of the accused in the theft of UTL copper cables valued at Shs33m, revealed how police officers would protect suspects at night as they dug UTL cables.

He said this while defending himself before Specialised Utilities Wildlife and Standards Court in Kampala.
Mr Katabirwa also told court that he was the driver of the Fuso vehicle used in the theft of the copper cables.

The cables were excavated from Wandegeya, a city suburb, at 3am on October 19, 2018.
The suspect, however, told court that it never occurred to him that it was an illegal activity because, a police patrol was giving them security.

Other suspects are Mr Fredrick Mwambu, 34, Mr Bernard Wetaka, 24, a chapatti vendor, Mr Stephen Andrew Onyangai, 33, a police officer at Wandegeya and Mr Abdallah Latif Mugabi, 36, a businessman.

Mr Katabirwa said Mr Mugabi was his boss and he used to drive his car.
He said Mr Mugabi had told him that he was working with UTL as one of the managers. This, he said made him more comfortable to drive the cables at night.


Police involvement
Mr Katabirwa also told court that before they dug up the cables, Mr Mugabi rang a police officer only identified as Mr Odupa, who assigned another police officer called Owele, a police patrol car driver at Old Kampala to drive to the site.
He said they used to deal with another officer called Mr Mutenyi attached to the Central Police Station in Kampala.

The suspect also explained that Mr Mugabi participated in a number of “dubious activities,” including buying cement meant for construction of Entebbe Expressway from porters for the construction of his house. That he also engaged in vandalising a bridge and a hospital in Jinja.
He added that Mr Mugabi also went to Kigumba, a town in Kiryandongo District and bought some cables meant for Karuma Hydropower Project from soldiers guarding the place.

“Latif is a crook, at one time he dosed some people in Mpigi with chloroform, which made them unconscious and he stole their stocked car tyres,” Mr Katabirwa testified.
“He (Mugabi) used to sell [UTL] copper cables to one Peter in Kisenyi, a hub for mental works. This buyer would transport these cables to Kenya where he had ready market,” he added.

Upon listening to Mr Katabirwa’s testimony, the trial magistrate, Ms Marion Mangeni asked him why he did not put all that information in his statements.
Mr Katabirwa’ s reply stunned the presiding judge when he revealed that he gave all this information to the police officer who recorded his statement but Mr Mugabi paid him off to remove some information.

Mr Mugabi was in court but remained silent as his colleague narrated what happened during the mission.
Mr Wetaka, another suspect, asked court to pardon him. He narrated how he was dragged into the mess by his brother Mwambu who asked him to escort him to the site where the copper cables were going to be exhumed.
He said at the time of his arrest, he had spent only 17 days in Kampala.

The case

Prosecution contends that Mwambu, Katabirwa, Wetaka, Onyangai, Mugabi and others still at large on the night of October 19, 2018 at Wandegeya a city suburb, damaged, removed and tampered with approximately 250 metres of a 600- copper core- cables, belonging to UTL.
It alleged that the accused stole copper cables valued at Shs33m.