The government has started investigations into circumstances under which former presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi, alias Bobi Wine, imported a bullet-proof car into the country without the knowledge of security and intelligence services.
Highly-placed sources say the inquiries have also been widened to ascertain whether the applicable tax was more than the Shs88 million paid.
Inside sources at Uganda Revenue Authority (URA), who spoke on condition of anonymity due to sensitivity of the matter, want officials of the tax body to explain how and why the bullet-proof vehicle was cleared for use by Bobi Wine without security vetting.
There is reportedly unease, and heads may likely roll, over how Bobi Wine has once again beaten Intelligence services to acquire the car and whether the clearance and registration was done through collusion by URA staff.
Bobi Wine’s secretive dealings that have exposed intelligence services include buying a registered political party that he re-registered with the Electoral Commission (EC) as National Unity Platform (NUP) on which ticket he stood for president.
Revelation of the deal was later followed by President Museveni sacking top EC officials, including long-serving secretary Sam Rwakoojo, although the latter was not directly linked to the former.
After alleging that he was nearly shot while on the campaign trail in eastern Uganda, Bobi Wine emerged on subsequent routes strapped in bullet-proof jackets and wearing ballistic helmets, including for his personal security detail. It remained unclear how he acquired the protections.
The government, according senior officials who asked not to be named for fear of reprisal, was also baffled by how Bobi Wine mustered resources to run an always flawless and organised campaign when his cash cow – musical concerts – had been blocked in the run-up to campaigns.
In the latest development, Bobi Wine announced acquisition of the bullet-proof car, which he said was bought for him by friends who pooled resources, on his Facebook page on Sunday.
“There is another group of comrades who kick-started a fundraising campaign for a bullet-proof vehicle. These comrades informed me of their plan, but I thought it was an uphill task, given how expensive it is. A few weeks ago, these comrades surprised me when they informed me that they had succeeded in raising enough money for the vehicle, and here it is. I can’t thank you enough,” he posted on Facebook, accompanied by a photograph of him leaning against the vehicle with crossed hands.
We could not independently verify if the car is bullet-proof, but Bobi Wine’s narrative about the vehicle, registered in his name under registration UBJ 667F only on February 18, departs from official records showing that a Kenyan national brought the car into Uganda last November when it was not bullet-proofed.
URA, however, says it followed the necessary legal and verification processes and based on what appeared genuine documents in registering the car in Uganda and later changing ownership to Bobi.
Those processes are now a subject of investigation, according to a February 22 internal memo by Abel Kagumire, the commissioner for customs, to URA Commissioner General John Musinguzi.
Headlined, Clearance of vehicle UBJ 667F, Mr Kagumire communicated that Kenyan national Fauz Khalid entered the country with the vehicle on November 5, 2020 under licence plate KCY550X.
He was issued a C32 for a temporary import.
Our investigations show that on Friday, January 8, 2021, Mr Khalid engaged Mr Abel Sabiiti, the director of Real-Time Global Cargo Handlers Uganda Limited, as an agent through whom he requested to register the vehicle in Uganda.
The request was granted four days later, on a Tuesday, and a URA inspection confirmed the vehicle details in the accompanying documents. There was also a letter from International Police (INTERPOL), confirming the vehicles was not stolen and was fit for use.
Subsequently, URA took Shs88 million in taxes and registered the vehicle that Mr Kagumire in the Monday memo to CG Musinguzi described as “normal motor vehicle”.
“Our officer under customs warehouse, Ms Marion Alukudo, verified the vehicle on January 11, 2021, and also confirmed [it] to be a normal motor vehicle,” Mr Kagumire wrote.
According to the memo, Mr Khalid applied for change of ownership of the vehicle into Bobi Wine’s names only last Thursday, and it was his social media post about the vehicle that caught security and political leaders unawares.
Mr Kagumire noted in the memo : “We are further going to investigate the authenticity of the documents attached in relation to the MV (motor vehicle)”.
He did not explain why the matter was now a subject of inquiries or who the complainant is.
However, a URA official who asked not to be named in order to speak freely about the politicised acquisition of the bullet-proof car, told this newspaper last evening that the pressure had come from the country top leadership.
“Yes, they already asked our bosses [at URA] to offer an account of how the vehicle was cleared, but I cannot tell the details of the directive,” the source with inside knowledge of the matter said.
Asked yesterday of the security interest in an Opposition politician acquiring a personal vehicle, police spokesperson Fred Enanga distances the Force from the saga.
“The issue of clearance of vehicles is for URA and we have nothing to do with it. People should stop bringing in police in political issues all the time. If URA has or not issued any statement on how they cleared that car, so be it,” he said.
The UPDF spokesperson, Brig Flavia Byekwaso, did not respond to our repeated calls neither was Security Minister, Gen Elly Tumwine, available to explain any possible security breaches regarding transactions of the bullet-proof vehicle.
Mr Ian Rumanyika, the URA spokesperson, yesterday promised to provide information about the basis of the tax body’s investigation into the Bobi Wine car, but had not done so by the time we went to press at midnight.