2020 crime report: Thieves stole Shs11.7t

Tuesday April 20 2021
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Witnesses point at a spot on a car that was shot by armed thugs who attacked a shop in Nansana-Ganda, Wakiso District in January. Five people were killed during the robbery. PHOTO/FILE

By Andrew Bagala

As the Covid-19 induced lockdowns holed up majority Ugandans in their homes, criminals ruled elsewhere in the country and cyberspace with menace, siphoning in excess of 11 trillion, according to police.
In the crime bulletin for the ended year released yesterday, the amount that Uganda Police Force recorded as lost in economic crimes, if accurate, means the lost money is equivalent to about one-quarter of Uganda’s national Budget.

This financial year’s Budget is Shs45.65 trillion. 
Economic crimes include embezzlement, fraud, theft, forgery, cyber offences and obtaining money by false pretence, issuing false cheques, fraud in banks and corporate institutions, cyber-crimes, and land frauds.
Other are causing financial losses, abuse of office, counterfeiting, and uttering of false documents.
Most of the white-collar crimes were committed in Kampala, the country’s political and commercial capital.

According to the police report, 143 embezzlement cases led to the loss of Shs11.1trillion. Embezzlement happens when an employee steals the money of the employer or company.  
Contacted to re-verify the staggering amount, Mr Charles Twiine, the spokesman for the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (CID), upon double-checking with his superiors, confirmed the loss which he said was registered by both public and private institutions.

“This is a summation of all losses by individual, government and private entities to criminals in 2020,” Mr Twiine said.    He, however, was unable to give specifics of the cases, saying some of the victims lost money in pyramid schemes.
One of the biggest online heists in Uganda’s history happened in October 2020 when hackers compromised a third-party payment technology run by Pegasus Technologies, a transaction aggregator, spiriting away undisclosed substantial cash.

MTN and Airtel, which control at least more than 90 per cent of the mobile money market at the time held escrow accounts with Stanbic Bank and this newspaper reported at the time that the two leading telecom companies were believed to have been hardest-hit.
In a joint statement issued after the theft, MTN, Airtel and Stanbic Bank disclosed a system incident in which hackers accessed systems of a third-party service provider (Pegasus Technologies), “thus impacting all bank-to-mobile money or wallet transactions”.

They mentioned no figure.
The Annual Crime and Traffic Safety report 2020 released yesterday at the police headquarters in Naguru, a Kampala outskirt, cited cyber economic crimes but provides no particulars. The reports showed that the value of economic losses registered last year was Shs598b higher than that reported in the previous year.
Police said they last year were only able to recover property or money worth Shs44b.

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In 2020, the biggest fraction of money or property valued at Shs11.5t was lost in economic crimes, the report notes.
Although the volume of the economic crimes reduced by 12.1 per cent from 13,264 cases in 2019, the few incidents they registered contributed to bigger losses.
Obtaining money by false pretence was the second biggest economic crime registered in 2020, a year of higher distresses due to the pandemic as victims cumulatively lost Shs351b.

The financial loss that employees caused to their employers in the period under review added to Shs33b.
Mr Martins Okoth Ochola, the inspector general of police, at the release of the report yesterday noted: “The report provides the opportunity to explain to the population how the Uganda Police Force is fulfilling its mandate. We believe that by availing this report to Ugandans, it is a form of accountability and helps to improve our relations with the public and create a safer society where individuals enjoy a secure environment for economic, social and political growth.”
Overall, the report shows that crime nationwide dropped by 8.9 percentage points from previous year, but a record 12 people on average were killed a day while comparably fewer traffic accidents claimed more than 3,000 lives, mostly upcountry.

Analysts say the report spotlights critical issues to inform local and foreign investment in the country since high crime rates are a turn-off for investors. 
With many of the 2020 economic crimes still unresolved, financial institutions have urged the government to strength investigative capacity of crime prevention institutions, as well as the criminal justice system, to detect, prevent, investigate and fully prosecute rising cases of big-ticket fraud and embezzlement cases.

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